This bill would create a nationwide, uniform system for reviewing and labeling genetically engineered foods (aka genetically modified organisms or GMOs) before they go to market. In response to contentious efforts by nearly 30 states to implement their own labeling regulations, this bill establishes federal labeling standards that preempt all state and local laws on the matter.
Products containing GMOs would not be required to have a label unless the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) decides that labeling is necessary for public health reasons or to avoid misleading statements. Direct or implied claims that foods made with GMOs are safer would be prohibited. Businesses would be allowed to voluntarily add labeling to products that were made with GMOs to differentiate them from comparable foods.
The FDA would be required to conduct a safety review of all new plant varieties used for genetically engineered foods before they are made commercially available. It would also establish a public website where information about genetically engineered plants intended for use in food could be accessed.
If the FDA believes it is necessary to require special labeling to protect health and safety, it would have the authority to establish those requirements. The FDA would also oversee a new legal framework governing label claims related to the absence or use of GMOs in food.
This bill also tasks the FDA with developing a definition of “natural” for claims on product labels that the federal government could use in regulating those products. An accreditation and certification process would be established within the USDA for businesses that would like to label their products as GMO-free — similar to the way organic products are currently certified.