The US House of Representatives has backed a bill that blocks moves to introduce mandatory labelling of food containing genetically modified ingredients.

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act was passed by 275 votes to 150 yesterday (23 July), pleasing industry organisations that oppose calls for compulsory labels and want a voluntary federal measure to take precedence over moves from individual states to introduce binding legislation locally. States including Vermont have tried or are attempting to introduce mandatory labels.

"A federal approach to food labelling remains the only way to ensure that Americans everywhere can access accurate information about the food they purchase," Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of industry body the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said. "We now call on the US Senate to move quickly on a companion bill and pass it this year."

However, there was dismay among opponents of the bill, which has, in some quarters, been dubbed the "Deny Americans the Right to Know", or DARK, Act.

"It’s outrageous that some House lawmakers voted to ignore the wishes of nine out of 10 Americans," said Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs at Environmental Working Group, an NGO campaigning on public health and the environment, said. "Today's vote to deny Americans the right to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown was a foregone conclusion. This House was bought and paid for by corporate interests, so it's no surprise that it passed a bill to block states and the FDA from giving consumers basic information about their food."

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