House lawmakers passed legislation Thursday to pre-empt states from labeling foods containing genetically engineered organisms, better known as "GMOs," giving the Food and Drug Administration the sole authority regarding such labels.

The legislation is an effort by mostly Republican lawmakers to undermine a drive by environmental activists to pass labeling laws on a state-by-state basis.

Titled the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act., the bill passed 275-150 with 45 Democrats joining the Republicans. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to be supported by the Republican majority there.

State legislatures in Connecticut, Vermont and Maine passed laws in 2013-14 mandating the labeling of foods including GMOs, part of a push by environmental activists.

Rep. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C., a co-sponsor, said the bill would prevent farmers from having to deal with a "mish-mash" of different state labeling laws and instead create a single consistent one.

"It gives consumers certainty while taking into account the delicate balance and sheer size and complexity of the food supply chain ... responsible for feeding the country," Butterfield said during the floor debate.

Critics, including food industry groups, counter that there is no evidence that the foods are unsafe and the labeling campaign is largely about scaring the public away from those foods. They applauded the House's vote Thursday.

"A federal approach to food labeling remains the only way to ensure that Americans everywhere can access accurate information about the food they purchase," said Pamela G. Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

GMO foods are ones that are genetically altered to include traits that wouldn't otherwise appear in nature. Scientists have used the process to create bug-resistant strains of corn, for example. That reduces the need for pesticides, another environmental concern and has greatly increased food yields.

The Food and Drug Administration says on its website that it "has no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by the new techniques present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding."

Environmentalists say the products — which they dub "frankenfoods " — are potentially unsafe and that consumers have a right to know what they are eating.

"Polls show that 90 percent of Americans support labeling food that contains genetically modified organisms (GMOs). But this bill would eliminate existing GMO labeling laws in all states, leaving consumers in the dark about what's in their food," said Mae Wu, a blogger for the Natural Resources Defense Council.