National GMO label standard clears key Senate hurdle

But as Harvest Public Media's Peggy Lowe reports, it's still a food fight. While many industry groups, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and the American Soybean Association, have welcomed the flexible and relatively non-invasive labeling options, anti-GMO consumer groups say it will prevent transparency on food labels. "That is why states like Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and Alaska have adopted laws to label goods containing GMOs and why many other states are interested and on the path to do that".

The USDA estimates that 24,000 more products would require disclosure under the Senate's regulation compared with the Vermont law. Food companies can place wording on a food package, use a QR code, or offer a phone number for those wanting more information. Labeling advocates have criticized the Senate bill as too lax. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Sen.

Despite protests, the Senate passed the bill Thursday.

I think GMO labelling is a bad idea - not because we should hide or somehow keep ingredients secret, but because we can't inform a public that is ignorant about genetics and genomics. He argued during debate that parents "have the right to know what is in the food their kids are going to be eating", and not have to download QR-code readers. "What it's trying to do is avoid the confusion and the cost when a state implements a law that becomes defacto federal law of the land and increases the cost of prices to consumers". But even Vermont's law has notable exceptions: cheese, which is often made with genetically modified enzymes called rennet, is exempt from labeling requirements, for example.

If the bill passes the Senate, the next challenge would be to have the US House of Representatives take up the same version of the bill, said Gordon.

There was strong opposition, led by Vermont senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy, who forced the late-night vote by holding out for the full 30 hours of debate required by a cloture vote.

"DFA strongly supports the Roberts-Stabenow food biotechnology labeling agreement", says John Wilson, Senior Vice President and Chief Fluid Marketing Officer, Dairy Farmers of America. "We need to have one standard for the entire country so we don't have rogue states like Vermont and others". As the GOP has historically been a supporter of voluntary labeling, it is unclear how a bill which mandates GMO labeling will be received by Republicans in the House. "What probably offends me most about this legislation is that it overrides the will of the people of CT, that they want clear, comprehensive labeling on GMO products".

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