The U.S. Senate late Thursday night passed a bipartisan GMO labeling bill, sending the measure on to the U.S. House of Representatives. On a vote of 63 to 30, the Senate approved the bill that will mandate labeling of genetically modified foods and preempt state labeling laws. The bill requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to administer GMO labeling required through either on package notification, or smart labels that direct consumers to more information through a smart phone or 1-800 number.
Senate Ag Chair Pat Roberts released the following statement after the vote:
Today is a victory for farmers, ranchers, sound science, and anyone who eats on a budget,” said Roberts. “Getting to an agreement wasn’t easy, but today’s strong showing in the Senate is a result of the way we get things done in the Agriculture Committee – with hard work and bipartisanship. I thank Ranking Member Stabenow for her continued partnership.”
“Tonight’s vote is the most important vote for agriculture in the last 20 years. We worked hard to ensure the marketplace works for everyone. I mean everyone. Our legislation allows farmers to continue using sound science to produce more food with less resources, gives flexibility to food manufacturers in disclosing information, and gives access to more food information that consumers demand.”
Not everyone is pleased, however. Democratic Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon, a long time opponent of the bill, motioned prior to the vote to allow amendments. That effort failed 30-63, or basically the reverse of the passage vote. Vermont’s Governor also criticized the legislation authored by Senate Ag Committee members Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow because the bill is weaker than the Vermont law. Governor Peter Shumlin of Vermont told reporters Wednesday as the bill cleared a cloture vote in the Senate that “It’s a sad day when so many members of the U.S. Senate sell out to big food and big business and turn their backs on those who elected them.”
The Roberts-Stabenow bill places a national standard of mandatory GMO labeling requiring either on package labels or smart labels that would direct consumers to more information. The bill would block Vermont’s first in the nation state GMO labeling bill as the Senate bill preempts state labeling laws.
Now, the bill moves on the House, which passed a voluntary GMO labeling bill last year. The House is under pressure from the food industry to take up the Senate version so the bill could be sent to the President before Congress goes into recess on July 15th until September. Previous remarks by Representative Mike Pompeo of Kansas (architect of the voluntary measure) indicate he believes the measure will pass with little problem.