Published: Sun, July 10, 2016
Economy | By Melissa Porter

Senate passes Roberts-Stabenow GMO labeling bill, preempts Vermont's

Senate passes Roberts-Stabenow GMO labeling bill, preempts Vermont's

Under the legislation, food manufacturers would be mandated to disclose genetically modified ingredients through one of three labeling options: on-package text, an on-package symbol, or an on-package digital code that directs users online for more information.

House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway says the Senate-passed GMO disclosure bill is "riddled with ambiguity", but he declared his support for its passage after the Agriculture Department assured him among other things that the legislation would nullify Vermont's labeling law. Supporters said a uniform national standard would prevent a confusing patchwork of different state labels that would lead to higher costs and compliance challenges for food makers.

The Vermont GMO labeling law which went into effect on July 1 would be preempted once this bill is passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by the president. As a result of Vermonts law, many major companies are already labeling their products all over the country.

"This bill strikes an important balance between giving farmers and the food industry the certainty they need, while providing consumers with information they want about the food they put on the table for their families", said Sen. Senators from Vermont opposed the bill because it strikes down Vermont's own law that required GMO labels right on the package.

"We are tremendously thankful for this Senate vote and for the leadership of Senators Roberts and Stabenow", said Charles F. Conner, President and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives and co-chair of CFSAF. In a release, the Organic Consumers Association says the bill has no enforcement, so the labeling would essentially be voluntary. At the end of the first day, the Senate voted 65-32 for cloture on the GMO labeling bill, thereby limiting debate and discussion of amendments.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who called the bill a "well-funded travesty", said consumers "deserve clear labels, not scavenger hunts". It will be up to the USDA to decide which ingredients are considered GMOs.

The vast majority of corn, soybeans and sugar crops in the United States are produced from genetically-engineered seeds. They argued that the measure falls short, especially compared to tougher labeling requirements in their state that kicked in last Friday. The Food and Drug Administration says they are safe to eat. Small companies could just print a phone number or a web address where consumers could find out whether a particular product contains GMOs.

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