We have entered a new month, but we are no closer to Senate passage of a food labeling bill. Senate Ag Committee chairman Pat Roberts, who authored a bill that would set a national standard for GMO food labels, has no real timetable for action on the legislation. With a Vermont labeling law set to kick in this summer, time is running out to provide guidance for the food industry. During a presentation to farm broadcasters in Washington, the Kansas Republican said the term GMO has been replaced with ABT which stands for Agricultural Biotechnology.
Roberts says the real issue here is not food safety, “The USDA, the FDA, and the EPA all tested before our committee that the U.S. food supply was safe and that Agricultural Biotechnology was also safe.” He added the issue is not really the public right to know, “But the public’s right to know what?” He said the bill simply tries to say the food is safe and that ABT is safe.
He said, if the Vermont law becomes the national standard, agricultural biotechnology or ABT will be unfairly and unessentially demonized, “What is most worrisome about Vermont’s labeling law is not the cost of labeling, but the advancing of a philosophy that that is hostel to new crop technology. What innovations will we forgo because of the cost and fear of activism and legal action.”
Roberts says a compromise with Senate Democrats is in the works, but no timetable for full Senate action has been set.