On June 23, 2016, the Senate Agriculture Committee agreed to a bipartisan deal that would set a national standard for GMO labeling. The National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard would amend The Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 by setting forth mandatory disclosure requirements for GMO food products, while providing a variety of options to the industry on how to provide consumers with this required information. The deal comes a week before Vermont’s own version of a mandatory GMO labeling law is set to take effect.  If the bipartisan bill is passed, then the national standards would pre-empt Vermont’s law.  Industry groups are showing support for the bill as they want to avoid the challenges of complying with varying state GMO labeling requirements.  The race is now on to get the bill passed in the Senate before the July 1 effective date of the Vermont law; however, the House of Representatives is on break until July 5, which guarantees delaying the possibility of any passage of the bill into law until after the Vermont law goes into effect.

On March 16, 2016, the U.S. Senate voted 48-49 against invoking cloture to cut off a filibuster on the Biotechnology Labeling Solutions Act.  The bill would have established a federal standard of voluntary labeling and preempted any mandatory GMO labeling state laws.  In July 2015, a similar bill called the  Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 successfully passed through the U.S. House of Representatives.[1]  In October 2015, the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry held a hearing on the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered crops that focused on the House bill.

Food labelling has long been a vexed question in many countries for governments, consumers, food producers and retailers alike. In Australia, the regulation of food labelling was substantially overhauled by the Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) Code in 2013, with the 3 year phase in period for these changes recently ending. The difficulty that has been felt in applying the Code is clear from the considerable debate over the changes and their application, as well as the various calls for an extension to the 3 year transition period. Importantly, although the Code covers nutritional and health claims, it does not extend to regulation of the terms such as ‘natural’ in food labelling.

On Thursday afternoon, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599 which, if enacted into law, would prohibit state and local governments from mandating the labeling of foods made with genetically engineered crops. Significantly, the law would invalidate GMO labeling