Late last week, the U.S. Senate passed the long delayed and much debated food labeling bill. It sets a national standard for the labeling of food that contains GMO products. Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly helped lead the effort to craft a workable compromise. The legislation gives opponents of biotechnology what they wanted: mandatory labeling of food products with GMOs. What the bill does not do is make those opponents happy. “This is a one-sided bill, one that benefits multi-national corporations and does nothing to help farm families,” said Montana Senator Jon Tester, an organic farmer who voted against the measure.
Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly, who was instrumental in achieving the compromise, says the new standard is a fair balance, “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.” Donnelly says the bill, that must now be reconciled with the House version, is based on sound science.
Hoosier farm leaders praised the action by the Senate. “Indiana Farm Bureau commends Senator Donnelly and other Senate leaders for working together for a solution to the biotechnology labeling debate that meets the needs of farmers and consumers,” said Randy Kron, President of Indiana Farm Bureau. Jane Ade Stevens, CEO of Indiana Corn Growers Association and Indiana Soybean Alliance, said, “Indiana corn and soybean farmers appreciate the Senate’s passage of the legislation bringing consistency to the marketplace when it comes to a federal labeling standard for food. We commend Senator Donnelly for his willingness to support legislation that gives consumers the information about biotech content in food products they want without stigmatizing a completely safe and proven technology valued by our farmers.”
If the U.S. House fails to consider the Senate approved GMO labeling bill this week, the fate of the legislation will be delayed until September. Congress is set to go on summer recess at the end of the week and won’t be back in session until September. Industry groups, such as the American Farm Bureau Federation and the National Corn Growers Association, are urging the House to quickly consider and pass the bill. The House passed a voluntary GMO labeling bill last year, a stark difference from the mandatory bill the Senate passed Thursday. Senator Pat Roberts warned House Ag Committee Chair Mike Conaway last week that the GMO measure approved by the Senate “is the last train that is leaving town.”