Everything you need to know: GMO Labeling

What is H.R. 1599?

According to www.congress.gov, a new federal bill, H.R. 1599, was passed in the House of Representatives on July 23rd of this year.  It would block states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration from labeling foods that contain genetically engineered organisms. Named the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 and sponsored by Mike Pompeo, Representative for Kansas’s 4th congressional district, if passed by the Senate and signed into law by President Obama, this bill would prevent any states from passing laws and would override any existing laws already passed by individual states that mandate labeling.  Additionally, it would continue to allow food producers to use the label “natural” on food products that contain GMOs.

Proponents of the bill support having a single, federally mandated standard.

“We’ve got a number of states that are taking wildly different approaches to putting restrictions on the capacity for technology to continue to enter the food chain in a safe and affordable way, and that won¹t work,” said Rep. Mike Pompeo, the Kansas Republican who introduced H.R. 1599.

According to the Center for Food Safety, more than 30 states introduced legislation to require the labeling of genetically engineered food in 2013 and 2014, with laws recently passed in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.  Additionally, the Center for Food Safety submitted a formal legal petition to the FDA in 2011 on behalf of over 650 companies and organizations demanding that GMO’s be labeled. Since it was filed, 55 members of Congress and over 1.4 million people have submitted comments in support of the appeal.

According to www.njleg.state.nj.us, here in NJ, Bill S 91 was introduced in January 2014 and has 14 co-sponsors. According to the bill “Every genetically modified food product that is offered for sale in the State shall contain a label indicating that the product contains genetically modified material. The information shall be displayed in a manner that is conspicuous and easily understandable to consumers.” Companion bill, A1359, was introduced mid-January, and has 15 sponsors.  Should H.R. 1599 be signed into law, these bills can’t be considered.

Many citizens throughout the state of NJ support the labeling of GMO’s and hope the bill..

“Given the increase in food allergies and sensitives that our children our experiencing, and the lack of explanation for these ailments, it is imperative that parents be given the option of whether or not to feed GMO’s to our kids. More information, not less, is what parents want and deserve. I feel strongly that GMO labeling is necessary.” Allison Fox, M.D., mother of two and family medicine physician who had an integrative and holistic practice in Maplewood, NJ

Some parents, like Johanna Rosario Taveras from Edison, devote their time to advocating for changes to our food system.  “I feel strongly that we deserve to know if our foods contain GMO’s. As a mother of two girls I want to know what I’m feeding them. I joined Purim’s Million Mom Movement, where I work to create awareness about the fact that what we eat affects our physical and mental health. Without the appropriate food labeling we are doing ourselves a disservice.”

Today, 64 countries accounting for 40% of the world’s population require labeling; including: the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia and China.

H.R. 1599 is backed largely by Republicans and passed in the House by a vote of 275-150.  According to www.govtrack.us, New Jersey Congressmen Chris Smith, Frank Pallone, Leonard Lance, Albio Sires, Donald Payne and Bonnie Watson Coleman all voted against the passing of H.R. 1599.  Donald Norcross, Frank LoBiondo, Tom MacArthur, Scott Garrett, Bill Pascrell and Rodney Frelinghuysen all voted in favor of the bill.

Jennifer Burns Katafigiotis, MS from Lyndhurst, NJ  and owner of the Weight Wellness Center, LLC thoughtfully shares, “As a nutrition educator at Montclair State University, my passion for this topic started with my first graduate class at MSU – when I was randomly assigned the topic of GMO’s.  I admit – back then I was not familiar with the topic and started researching it right away.  I was drawn in by it and the arguments that Golden Rice could save millions of lives, vaccines genetically engineered into bananas could eradicate Hepatitus B, that super fruits could be created faster than Gregor Mendel could have ever imagined and so many more splendid claims.  But as I dug deeper into my research I soon realized why this technology was unknown to me … because it wasn’t labelled.  The undergrad marketing major in me wondered why built in talking points and astounding benefits wouldn’t naturally be the focus of all the marketing and advertising dollars spent by these companies?”


If you are interested either supporting the bill or advocating against it, contact your congressmen and encourage them to support your view.


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