NATIONAL BIOENGINEERED FOOD DISCLOSURE STANDARD; Congressional Record Vol. 162, No. 112
(Senate - July 12, 2016)

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[Page S4994]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




            NATIONAL BIOENGINEERED FOOD DISCLOSURE STANDARD

  Mr. LEAHY. Mr. President, I wish to join my colleague from Michigan, 
the ranking member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator 
Stabenow, in a colloquy regarding the scope of the products that could 
be labeled under the GMO labeling legislation.
  Does the Senator from Michigan believe that the definition of GMO 
included in this bill prohibits the labeling of highly refined products 
derived from GMO crops, including soybean oil made from GMO soybeans, 
high fructose corn syrup made from GMO corn, and sugar made from GMO 
sugar beets?
  Ms. STABENOW. I thank the Senator from Vermont for joining me in this 
colloquy for the purpose of bringing greater clarity to the definition 
included in this bill and the scope of GMO products that could be 
labeled.
  The intent of this legislation is to create a national mandatory 
disclosure standard for GMO foods. This bill gives USDA broad authority 
to determine, through rulemaking and with important input from the 
public and scientific community and after review of both State and 
international laws, what foods will be subject to this bill's mandatory 
disclosure standard, including highly refined products derived from GMO 
crops and products developed using gene editing techniques. The USDA 
general counsel, in a response letter dated July 1, stated that the 
Department has broad authority under this bill to require labels on GMO 
foods and products, including all commercially available GMO corn, 
soybeans, sugar beets, and canola crops used in food today.
  To answer your specific question, no, this bill does not prohibit the 
labeling of highly refined products derived from GMO crops including 
soybean oil made from GMO soybeans, high fructose corn syrup made from 
GMO corn, and sugar made from GMO sugar beets.
  Mr. LEAHY. Does the Senator from Michigan also believe that the 
definition of GMO food included in this bill prohibits the labeling of 
ingredients from plants genetically modified through new and yet to be 
developed gene editing techniques in addition to the recombinant DNA 
editing technique mentioned in the bill?
  Ms. STABENOW. No, the bill does not prohibit the labeling of products 
developed using gene editing techniques, including RNAi and CRISPR. 
Additionally, the bill gives the USDA broad authority to periodically 
amend its labeling regulations to ensure that there are no new 
scientific biotechnology methods that may escape any overly 
prescriptive statutory definition of biotechnology.
  Mr. LEAHY. I thank the Senator from Michigan for joining me in this 
colloquy for the purpose of bringing greater clarity to the 
congressional intent regarding the definition of GMO products contained 
in this bill.
  I ask unanimous consent that the USDA general counsel's response 
letter dated July 1, 2016, be printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the material was ordered to be printed in 
the Record, as follows:

                                          United States Department


                                               of Agriculture,

                                                     July 1, 2016.
     Hon. Debbie Stabenow,
     Ranking Member, Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, 
         and Forestry, Washington, DC.
       Dear Senator Stabenow, Thank you for your letter of June 
     29, 2016, inquiring as to the scope and applicability of the 
     GMO labeling legislation currently pending before the U.S. 
     Senate. The United States Department of Agriculture, as the 
     lead implementing agency, has carefully studied this 
     legislation from legal, program policy, and scientific 
     aspects. I will respond in turn below to the questions raised 
     in your letter.
       (1) Please explain whether the GMO Labeling Law provides 
     authority to the USDA to require labeling of food products 
     that contain widely used commodity crops, like corn, 
     soybeans, sugar, and canola, which have been genetically 
     modified, as defined by Section 291(1)?
       Section 291(1) of the Senate bill provides authority to 
     include food in the national disclosure program, including 
     all of the commercially grown GMO corn, soybeans, sugar, and 
     canola crops used in food today and reviewed and approved by 
     USDA's Biotechnology Regulatory Service.
       (2) Please explain whether the GMO Labeling Law provides 
     authority to the USDA to require labeling of food products 
     that contain genetically modified material, which result from 
     gene editing techniques?
       Section 291(1) of the Senate bill provides authority to 
     include food in the national disclosure program, including 
     products of certain gene editing techniques. This would 
     include novel gene editing techniques such as CRISPR when 
     they are used to produce plants or seeds with traits that 
     could not be created with conventional breeding techniques. 
     In addition, the definition provides authority to include 
     RNAi techniques that have been used on products such as the 
     non-browning apple and potato.
       (3) Please explain whether the GMO Labeling Law provides 
     authority to the USDA to require labeling of food products, 
     which may or may not contain highly refined oils, sugars, or 
     high fructose corn syrup that have been produced or developed 
     from genetic modification techniques, as defined by Section 
     291(1)?
       Section 291(1) of the Senate bill provides authority to 
     include food in the national disclosure program, including 
     products which may or may not contain highly refined oils, 
     sugars, or high fructose corn syrup that have been produced 
     or developed from genetic modification techniques. As a 
     practical matter of implementation, the Department would look 
     not only at the definition in Section 291(1) regarding the 
     genetically modified crops used to produce the refined or 
     extracted materials, but also consider authority provided 
     under Section 293(b)(2)(B) and Section 293(b)(2)(C) with 
     respect to the amount of a bioengineered substance present 
     and other factors and considerations which might deem the 
     product to be considered bioengineered food.
       If needed, my team and our USDA programmatic and scientific 
     experts are available to discuss any aspects of the 
     legislation in greater detail at your request. Please do not 
     hesitate to reach out.
           Sincerely,
                                                Jeffrey M. Prieto,
     General Counsel.

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