On July 23, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation that would restrict state and local governments from regulating the use of genetically modified (GM) plants in food if that regulation affects interstate commerce.

The bill, H.R. 1599, passed in a 275-150 vote after the bill’s main sponsor, Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., claimed that the bill is in line with the “overwhelming” scientific evidence on the safety of GM foods.  Specifically, Pompeo said that “[p]recisely zero pieces of credible evidence have been presented that foods produced with biotechnology pose any risk to our health and safety.”  He further stated that “ it is not the place of government — government at any level — to arbitrarily step in and mandate that one plant product should be labeled based solely on how it is bred, while another, identical product is free of government warning labels.”

Despite Pompeo’s comments, consumers and several democratic lawmakers have different views regarding GM safety and the right to know about what is in the food that people eat.  In arguing against the bill Thursday, democratic lawmakers urged that consumers deserve to be informed about what is in their food.  Many consumers prefer to avoid GM food products, regardless of safety.

“[p]recisely zero pieces of credible evidence have been presented that foods produced with biotechnology pose any risk to our health and safety.”

The FDA does not require specific labeling requirements for GM foods, stating that they are adequately covered by current labeling regulations.  Currently, the FDA requires that food produced from a GM plant have a label listing how it is different to a comparable food if there is a “functional, nutritional or compositional” difference or to protect public health and safety.  The bill maintains this FDA requirement.  It also directs the US Department of Agriculture to establish a voluntary nongenetically engineered food certification program, governing the labeling of non-GM food in a “nationally uniform” manner.