A voluntary, GMO labeling bill failed to receive enough votes Wednesday to clear a procedural hurdle. The Senate voted 48 to 49 against the voluntary labeling proposal by Senate Agriculture Chair Pat Roberts. The Kansas Republican was unable to reach a compromise with his committee’s top Democrat, Debbie Stabenow, who led the opposition. The bill needed 60 votes to move forward. Before the vote, Stabenow said that negotiations would continue and that she hoped a deal could be wrapped by the end of this week.
“If we do not act, everyone loses. I have acted to provide a responsible, enforceable, scientific, and proactive approach to arm consumers with the information they want to make informed choices about what to put on the dinner table,” said Roberts. Indiana Senator Joe Donnelly called for efforts to continue to reach a compromise, “Whether you are a parent or a farmer, a Republican or Democrat, our objectives in this debate should be the same: to provide consumers with access to accurate information about the food we eat and to do so in a way that does not mislead consumers into falsely thinking their food is unsafe.”
AFBF President Zippy Duvall said the failure of the Senate to act was inexcusable, “To say we are angry with those senators who abandoned farmers and ranchers and turned their backs on rural America on this vote is an understatement. Their votes opposing this measure ignored science, threw our nation’s food system into disarray, and undermined the public’s understanding of the many benefits of biotechnology in feeding a growing and hungry population. We remain hopeful they will have a chance at redemption by correcting this situation that will otherwise lead to increased food costs for consumers and stifle agricultural innovation, which remains a strength of our nation. We must not let anyone forget that rural America and our farmers and ranchers do matter.”
A compromise may be hard to come by. “We urge the Senate to stand strong against any proposals that fall short of clear, on-package labels,” said Friends of the Earth Program Director Lisa Archer. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell voted against the cloture motion, which will allow him to bring up the legislation later should an agreement be reached.