Controversial GMO Labeling Bill Stalls in Senate

A bill that would have put in place a voluntary national labeling standard for genetically modified food while preventing states from requiring manufacturers to add GMO labels failed to pass a procedural vote in the Senate on Wednesday. The chamber's decision to pass on the measure, for now at least, leaves Vermont's first-in-the-nation mandatory GMO labeling law untouched months before it's expected to take effect.

The food industry’s long-running fight over how genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in foods should be labeled just ran into a roadblock.

On Wednesday, a failed Senate procedural vote effectively put a stop to a national rule, pushed by a number of food-industry groups, that would make GMO labeling a voluntary process, while overriding any state laws that hope to make such labels mandatory on food items.

As a result, a forthcoming law in Vermont that would make the state the first in the country to require GMO labeling remains on the books less than four months before it takes effect July 1.

Sen. Pat Roberts, who pushed forth the Senate bill, emphasized that he would continue to fight for the legislation.

“I remain at the ready to work on a solution,” Roberts said, according to Reuters.

Roberts remained skeptical of arguments made in favor of Vermont’s law, highlighting a Corn Refiners Association study [PDF] that suggested that the actions of Vermont—a state with a population of just over 625,000—would affect the food supply nationwide, costing consumers around the country $81.5 billion each year. He implied that the Vermont bill was an initiative undertaken by organic food companies to stand out.

“It’s not about safety, it’s not about health, it’s not about nutrition. It’s all about marketing,” Roberts said, according to the Huffington Post.

The bill, which has the support of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other food-industry groups, could still reappear later in the cycle—if Roberts is willing to modify it to win over skeptical Democrats like Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), the Senate Agriculture Committee’s ranking Democrat. Stabenow has suggested that the concern of a patchwork of GMO labeling laws is valid, but questioned the idea of not giving consumers information they’d like to have.

“A growing number of American consumers want to know more about the food they eat,” Stabenow said, according to the Huffington Post. “And they have the right to know. They have the right to know what is in their food.”

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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