On July 14, 2015, the United States House of Representatives Agriculture Committee approved legislation establishing a national standard for labeling food and beverage products made with any bioengineered organisms (commonly referred to as genetically enhanced ingredients or genetically modified organisms ((GMOs)). As of today, the bill has 98 cosponsors and is on the agenda of possible items for the House to consider on the floor next week. If passed, H.R. 1599 will create a system of national uniformity regarding the labeling of food products derived from genetically engineered plants. Such uniformity will prevent the creation of a patchwork of conflicting state or local labeling laws which could interfere with interstate and foreign commerce.
The proposed legislation addresses both consumers’ interest in having additional information about their food products and the industry’s need for uniform rules. It achieves this by first creating a notice and approval process that developers of bioengineered foods must comply with prior to introducing food products into the market. Developers must receive certification from the FDA that their products are safe for human consumption. Second, the legislation creates a food labeling standard for the definition of “natural” food. Third, it creates a program that employs certifying agents accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to certify that a food was produced with or without genetic engineering to ensure the integrity of the labeling.
Michael Best has a full-service food and drug regulatory practice that can assist companies with the process of evaluating ingredients and food labeling changes to assess FDA and USDA regulatory compliance. Further, Michael Best’s Intellectual Property Practice Group has experience with protecting new food formulation technology.