Senate passes GMO labeling bill

by Jay Sjerven
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WASHINGTON — The Senate on the evening of July 7 voted 63 to 30 to approve bipartisan legislation sponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, ranking member on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, and Pat Roberts, the committee’s chairman. The bill easily cleared a procedural hurdle on June 29, and a successful cloture vote on July 6 cleared the way for the Senate.

Having been passed by the Senate, the bill will be sent to the House of Representatives, which passed its own GMO labeling bill last year. The primary difference between the two bills is that the House measure called for only voluntary labeling of GMO foods whereas the Senate bill was based on mandatory labeling. Most food industry organizations favored the House approach but now urged the House members to support the Senate measure as the best bill possible to clear Congress before the July recess.

Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), called the Senate vote “a milestone moment” in the efforts to provide consumers clear and consistent information about food and beverage products. She also said the vote should help prevent “a patchwork of costly and confusing state labeling laws that would hurt consumers, farmers and businesses.”

“The stakes could not be higher,” Bailey said. “Vermont’s mandatory on-package GMO labeling law, which took effect on July 1, threatens to disrupt the nation’s food supply chain with costly and lasting impacts. The fact is that consumers and small businesses in the state are already facing fewer products on the shelves and higher costs of compliance on small businesses, and this will only increase unless Congress acts quickly to pass this federal bill.”

Bailey said the GMA’s SmartLabel technology is one way consumers will be able to get access to information about bioengineered ingredients. The SmartLabel technology allows consumers to get additional details about products by scanning a bar code or conducting an online search.

“(SmartLabel) enables them to get much more information than ever before — and more than could ever fit on a package label,” she said. “More than 1,150 products already are using SmartLabel and are listed on the SmartLabel.org website. We project that more than 34,000 products will be using SmartLabel by the end of 2017.”

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