On July 14, H.R. 1599 was reported favorably out of the House Agriculture Committee on a voice vote, and is expected to reach a floor vote within the week. Although titled the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” this bill actually codifies quarter-century old, agribusiness-friendly practices concerning the safety testing of genetically modified foods. It also preempts all state laws mandating labeling of GMOs without enacting a labeling requirement at the federal level.
Regarding safety, H.R. 1599 simply directs the FDA to continue its current “consultation process” for the review of genetically engineered plants intended for use in foods. That process was established in a 1992 FDA policy statement. In that process, a GMO developer submits a summary of the results of the developer’s own research in support of the developer’s conclusion that the plant or food is safe. FDA is relegated to review of the summary and expression of any objections to the developer’s conclusion based on the data submitted. H.R. 1599 does not mandate that the FDA independently reach its own determination whether the food is safe or unsafe. Nor does H.R. 1599 grant to FDA the authority to require that all research conducted by the developer be submitted, in its complete form. Nor does it provide for public input into the review process.