U.S. Senate pushes through divisive GMO labeling bill
If passed into law, the bill would require the establishment of a GM labeling standard in the form of a code or a USDA symbol.
The U.S. Senate has set the wheels in motion for GMO labeling bill S.764, which has the potential to overrule the state labeling decisions that have roused the ire of Big Ag, as has been the case in Vermont.
Rather than allowing states the right to pass legislation that requires transparent on-product communication about genetically-modified ingredients, if the "compromise" Roberts-Stabenow food biotechnology labeling measure is enacted then a simple digital code would likely suffice.
Last week, the Senate passed the bill in a 63-30 vote and is now set to go to the House of Representatives.
The Senate passage was praised by the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food (CFSAF).
"The Senate has provided all Americans a transparent and consistent system of disclosure that will give consumers access to more product information than ever before, and we urge the House to consider this legislation next week” said CFSAF co-chair Pamela G. Bailey, who is also CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association.
"Nearly 1,100 organizations in the food-producing community are united behind this bill to set a uniform, national standard that protects American family farmers and small businesses.
"We are tremendously thankful for this Senate vote and for the leadership of Senators Roberts and Stabenow,” added another co-chair, Charles F. Conner who is also CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives."
The National Corn Growers Association also welcomed the move.
"The Roberts-Stabenow agreement ensures consumers have the access to product information they deserve without stigmatizing this safe, proven technology that America’s farmers value. Now, we urge the House to build upon the Senate’s work today by quickly taking up and passing this legislation," said NCGA president Chip Bowling.
In TheHill.com's Congress Blog, Food & Water Watch founder Wenonah Hauter aid the advocacy groups that had fought so long and hard for clear CMO labeling would not be cheering about the passage.
"They know the bill is a gift to the agribusiness and biotech industries—not a compromise. That’s why consumer advocates have dubbed the bill the Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act," Hauter said.
"The fact is, clear GMO labels are already appearing in stores nationwide, thanks to the Vermont law, because it’s much easier for a company to provide GMO labels on all of its products than just the ones going to Vermont.
"GMO labels can already be found on packages of Snickers, M&Ms, Lay’s Potato Chips, Cheetos, Doritos, Fritos and Smartfood Popcorn, among others. But this bill would put an end to that," she said, adding other legislative efforts in New York, Massachusetts and other states would be shut down by the bill.
Regarding the produce industry, very few genetically modified fruits and vegetables are produced commercially or available in the market - exceptions include a GM papaya developed in Hawaii and the recently approved Canadian-developed Arctic Apples.
Wide consumer distrust of the agriculture industry and its use of genetic modification while rallying against transparent labeling has led the private sector to take matters into its own hands to regain consumer confidence.
One of the actions taken has been to gain certification to label products as non-GMO; indeed, this has been increasingly common in the fruit industry.
A Non-GMO Project spokesperson told www.freshfruitportal.com there were currently 34,774 Non-GMO Project Verified products in the U.S. and Canada.