Senate Agriculture Committee Members, Chairman Pat Roberts and ranking Democrat Debbie Stabenow released a GMO labeling law Thursday that would preempt state laws, such as the one taking effect July first in Vermont. The bill would require mandatory labeling of most foods with genetically modified ingredients but with labeling options. The bill offers companies a choice of providing an on-package label or a symbol or scannable electronic label. The law would preempt state labeling laws, but gives the U.S. Department of Agriculture two years to develop the labeling standards.
Stabenow said the bill ensures that organic producers can clearly display a “non-GMO” label, but is “also a win for our nation’s farmers and food producers.” Roberts says the legislation recognizes the 30-plus years of proven safety of biotechnology and urged Senators to support the bill. He called the legislation “a far better alternative than Vermont’s law.” Grocery Manufacturers Association CEO Pamela Bailey said the compromise is “the commonsense solution for consumers, farmers and businesses,” and urged the Senate to quickly pass the bill.
National Corn Growers strongly urges that the Senate and House both act as swiftly as possible to pass this important legislation. “The introduction of this solution comes at a critical time when Congress must act to restore sanity to America’s food labeling laws,” said National Corn Growers Association President Chip Bowling, a farmer from Maryland. “GMOs are perfectly safe and America’s farmers rely on this proven technology to protect our crops from insects, weeds and drought. Important food safety and labeling decisions should be made by qualified policymakers, not political activists and campaigns. Yet, despite the scientific evidence, Vermont will place into effect a costly, confusing mandatory labeling legislation, and other states will follow in rapid succession.” “This package has been a long time in coming, and we’re happy to see it introduced today,” said ASA First Vice President Ron Moore, a soybean farmer from Roseville, Illinois. “Soybean farmers absolutely support this bill, and we call on the Senate to pass it as soon as possible.”
Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly said, in a statement, “I welcome this bipartisan legislation that will provide consumers with access to information about the food we eat and provide certainty to Hoosier farmers and food manufacturers, so they can continue to provide a safe and reliable food supply for the world. This important agreement will bring the right information into our grocery stores and homes in a responsible way, and I hope the Senate considers and passes this legislation soon.”
AFBF President Zippy Duvall, however, expressed serious concerns with the mandatory feature of the legislation, “We appreciate Chairman Roberts’ diligence in taking action prior to the Vermont law’s going into effect. This deal clearly seeks to prevent a 50-state mismatched quilt of differing labeling standards. But the mandatory feature holds significant potential to contribute to confusion and unnecessary alarm. Regardless of the outcome, we continue to believe a national, voluntary standard remains the best approach. Our board will deliver a decision soon.”
Despite Compromise, Vermont Labeling Law Becomes De Facto Standard, For Now
The Vermont GMO labeling law is poised to be the de facto national standard, at least, for now. The Senate Agriculture Committee unveiled its GMO labeling bill Thursday, but with the House in recess, the Vermont law will stand, for at least a few days. That is if the Senate can garner the votes needed to pass the compromise and the bill can be passed by the House once the chamber returns on July 5th. The House squashed all hope of defeating the Vermont law before it comes into effect on July first after Democrats caused chaos in the chamber with a “sit in” demanding action on gun control measures. Republican leaders of the House responded by adjourning for recess, skipping the final two working days on the calendar for the House this month. The Vermont law does have a six-month grace period on penalties until January. However, many major food companies pledged to comply nationally with the Vermont mandatory GMO labeling law and have already begun shipping properly labeled products.