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The battle over labeling genetically modified foods may have just hit its roughest patch yet. A federal bill, introduced yesterday by Rep. Mike Pompeo, (R-Kan.), would prevent the FDA from ever issuing mandatory labeling rules for GMO foods.

Known as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, the bill would give the FDA the power to provide “guidance” for companies that wish to label their products as either containing or free from GMOs. It would also prevent the agency and individual states from passing mandatory GMO labeling bills.

“The bill, which GE labeling proponents have dubbed the ‘Deny Americans the Right-To-Know Act,’ or the DARK Act, would codify the failed voluntary labeling system that has been in place for the past 13 years. It would also prevent the FDA from ever mandating GE labeling in the future,” the Just Label It campaign said in a statement.

“Voluntary labeling of GE foods has not worked,” said Darren Mahaffy, Vice President of Marketing at Nature’s Path Foods. “Companies have been able to disclose the presence of GE ingredients since 2001, and not one company has done so.  This leaves consumers more confused than ever. It’s time for FDA to require mandatory GE labeling.”

Pompeo’s legislation would also make it impossible for states to take any legislative action requiring labeling on foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

“This legislation would not only pre-empt states from taking any steps towards labeling in the future, but nullify the efforts in more than 30 states that are currently working to require GE labeling,” said Violet Batcha, communications manager at Just Label It.

“The Pompeo bill will leave consumers even more confused, not less. Allowing genetically engineered ingredients to be included in products label “natural” will undermine consumers’ trust in the growing, vibrant natural products industry,” said Sarah Bird, Chief Marketing Officer at Annie’s, Inc., “this bill sends us backwards in terms of addressing consumer confusion.”

The bill was embraced by the American Soybean Association, which is heavily supported by biotech companies and GMO initiatives.

“Genetically modified soybeans have been in widespread use by American farmers since 1997. Not only have these applications been repeatedly tested and proven safe by the world’s most stringent food safety testing system, they have been so without a single documented instance of a human or animal health risk. Not one. That’s why, as farmers, we grow them, and as consumers, we feed them to our families,” said ASA President Ray Gaesser. “It’s time that we have a reasonable, science-based discussion on GMOs and this bill helps get us there.”

But according to Just Label It, polls show that 93 percent of Americans support the labeling of GMO foods. More than sixty countries including Russia, China, Saudi Arabia, and the EU already require GMO labeling.

“The majority of consumers want the right to know what’s in their food. The DARK Act would take away this right by making it impossible for the FDA or individual states to ever mandate GE Labeling,” said Gary Hirshberg, Chairman of Stonyfield Farm, “This act is a slap in the face of all average citizens who simply want the right to know what we are eating and how it is grown.”

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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