Update July 6, 2016: This bill was co-opted through the amendment process from its original form to serve as the legislative vehicle for genetically modified organism (GMOs) labeling standards. Originally, this legislation reauthorized the National Sea Grant College Program through 2021, with funding going to sea grant colleges, sea grant institutes, sea grant programs, and sea grant projects.
Then it served as the Senate version of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which would let the FDA to create a nationwide, uniform system for reviewing and labeling genetically engineered foods before they go to market after studying the issue. It was proposed in response to contentious efforts by nearly 30 states to
implement their own GMO labeling regulations, this bill would allow the establishment of federal
labeling standards that preempt all state and local laws on the matter. The legislation was then replaced another similar GMO labeling proposal crafted by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).
In its current form, this bill would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to create a national GMO labeling standard within two years which would supersede all state or local labeling requirements. All food manufacturers would be required to have a label related to GMO content of some sort was the FDA's standard goes into effect.
The FDA would be responsible for figuring out all aspects of the labeling standard — like when a disclosure is required and how it evaluates claims. Once a GMO product has made it through the federal review process, it would be treated as no more or less safe than an organic product. (Certified organic products would also be able to claim that they're "non-GMO").
The new GMO label could be required to take a number of forms, whether it's text or a symbol of some sort, or a bar code. Businesses would also have alternative ways to comply with the labeling requirement when dealing with small packages. Small food manufacturers would be given an extra year to comply with the eventual standard.
There would be noteworthy exceptions to the eventual national standard — meat and dairy products. Both wouldn't be required to have a GMO label simply because the animal that produced the meat or dairy may have eaten bioengineered feedstock. Restaurants also wouldn't be required to label food that they serve.
The federal government wouldn't have the power to recall products that don't comply with the standard, and this bill wouldn't create federal penalties for violations. It does, however, leave the door open for states creating their own punishments.