While the Senate Agriculture Committee passed a GMO labeling bill by Chairman Pat Roberts of Kansas on Tuesday, the bill faces an uphill battle in the full Senate. The bill passed the committee 14 to 6 and heads on to the Senate floor. Ranking Committee Democrat Debbie Stabenow of Michigan does not support the bill, and other Democrats in the full Senate may follow Stabenow’s lead. Stabenow said she could not support anything other than mandatory labeling. The Roberts’ proposal sets a voluntary labeling standard. Politico reports it is not clear where the behind-the-scenes negotiations for a bipartisan compromise stand, but work will continue to get a solution that can pass the Senate.
Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was one of three Democrats to approve the bill in committee. However, she told reporters she does not think the bill she approved would pass the entire Senate without amendment. She said her vote was to advance the bill because a patchwork of state laws will not work and she believes in science. Klobuchar indicated she is working on an amendment to be offered on the floor of the Senate.
Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly helped the Senate Agriculture Committee pass bipartisan legislation in order to move closer towards finding a national solution for biotechnology labeling. During the committee markup, Donnelly spoke about the importance of continuing to work in a bipartisan manner to improve the committee-passed legislation, and presented a proposal that he believes would accomplish the goals of ensuring that consumers have the information they want, without placing misleading labels on food items. While Donnelly supported today’s legislation, he believes improvements need to be made to find a solution that works for both consumers and producers. He proposed a way to accomplish that by creating a national, voluntary bioengineered food labeling standard and establishing ambitious goals for companies to make information available to consumers through that voluntary program. If food companies fail to make sufficient information available, then a national food labeling standard for bioengineering would become mandatory. Donnelly will continue working with his Republican and Democratic colleagues to improve the bill when it comes to the Senate floor and achieve a national solution to this issue stating, “Every day we spend stuck in a partisan debate about this is another day when consumers don’t have the information they need, and another day when farmers are uncertain about what is going to be expected of them. Instead of pitting conventional farmers versus organics, or concerned parents versus biotech companies, we need to quickly enact legislation that ensures consumers can get the information they want, without sticking misleading labels on every food product.”
The National Corn Growers Association today thanked members of the Senate Agriculture Committee who voted to stand with farmers. “We find the forward momentum building behind this bill encouraging, and we urge the Senate to quickly pass this bill for the good of America’s farmers and consumers,” said National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling, a farmer from Maryland. “U.S. farmers rely on GMOs, a safe, proven technology, to protect our crops from insects, weeds and drought. The FDA should remain the party responsible for important food safety and labeling decisions based in science. Despite the scientific evidence, states such as Vermont are quickly moving toward costly, confusing mandatory labeling legislation pushed forth by agenda-driven activists. We ask the Senate to quickly move forward with this legislation to avoid a situation in which all American consumers pay a high price and gain little actual information.”