July 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. House of Representatives was set to vote Thursday on a hotly debated measure that would block mandatory labeling of foods made with genetically engineered crops, including pre-empting a state law set to take effect next year in Vermont.
Dubbed the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act by supporters, but the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” or DARK Act, by opponents, the measure appeared likely to pass the House, according to lawmakers and lobbyists. It sailed through the House Agriculture Committee last week.
House passage would mark a victory for corporate food and agricultural interests that have lobbied for the bill, and a blow to opponents, which include consumer, health and environmental groups and organic food industry players.
“Poll after poll shows the majority of Americans want to know if their food contains GMOs. I have this radical idea we ought to give the American people what they want,” Representative Jim McGovern said in an interview about his opposition to the bill.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents more than 300 food companies, has been a key architect of the bill, which would squelch a series of state-by-state efforts to force labeling of GMO foods.
The association sent a letter to House members Wednesday, calling the legislation “critical to ensuring Americans have access to safe and affordable food” and urging passage. The group said allowing states to pass their own GMO labeling laws would be “destructive” and costly.
Opponents of the bill said they expect it to pass in the House. While the measure may stall in the Senate, they said it could move ahead if it were attached to 2016 spending legislation.
Labeling supporters said consumers have a right to know if GMOs are in their food.
They cited a lack of scientific consensus on safety and concerns about the herbicide glyphosate, which is widely used on genetically modified crops. Residues of the pesticide have been detected in foods and a World Health Organization research unit earlier this year said it was classifying glyphosate as “probably” cancer-causing for humans.
Opponents say mandatory labeling would raise food prices, confuse consumers without cause, because they say GMOs are well regulated and are no less safe or nutritious than foods made with non-GMO ingredients. (Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Kevin Drawbaugh and Ken Wills)