On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate blocked a bill which would deny state’s and local authorities the ability to label food products made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in favor of a federal system.
The legislation, introduced by Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) in late February, would create a federal voluntary standard for labeling genetically modified or engineered ingredients, and block mandatory labeling efforts by states. Genetically modified or engineered seeds are engineered to have certain traits, such as resistance to herbicides. The majority of the United States’ corn and soybean crops are now GE, including a large portion that is used for animal feed.
Senate Bill 2609, or the Biotech Labeling Solutions Act, failed to reach the 60 votes needed during a procedural vote, with 49 votes in favor and 48 votes against. The bill would “amend the Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 to require the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national voluntary labeling standard for bioengineered foods.”
Roberts’ bill is similar to the controversial Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which passed the House in June 2015. To critics, the bill was known as the “DARK” (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act because the law would have effectively nullified GE labeling measures, such as the bill recently passed in Vermont. The Vermont law is scheduled to take effect July 2016.
Senator Roberts’ bill would prevent the Vermont bill from becoming law. Lawmakers say that a new bill is necessary to avoid a “patchwork” of laws that vary from state to state. Maine and Connecticut have also passed laws requiring labeling, but those measures will not go into effect until bordering states also pass legislation.
The proposed legislation from Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas comes amid growing calls for transparency in the U.S. food supply. Labeling advocates have criticized the bill as toothless because it leaves the decision to disclose GMO ingredients to the companies whose products contain them.
Reuters also notes that Whole Foods Market Inc, Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc and Campbell Soup Co and other companies have begun voluntarily labeling products with genetically engineered ingredients. Perhaps the companies recognize that involving the U.S. government will only create more problems, especially when the government is so heavily interlaced with biotechnology companies like Monsanto.
Although the bills are being touted as a way to avoid a “patchwork” of various laws by cities and states, the true objective seems to be establishing federal control over what information Americans will receive about genetically modified foods. This latest attempt may have stalled but Senator Roberts and other GMO-friendly politicians will not give up their efforts, especially with Vermont’s law scheduled to go into effect in just four months.
Derrick is available for interviews.
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