Senate closer to final vote on GMO labeling bill, vote could come as soon as Thursday | TheFencePost.com

Senate closer to final vote on GMO labeling bill, vote could come as soon as Thursday

Samantha Fox

The Senate might have a vote regarding its genetically modified organism labeling bill as soon as tomorrow, thanks to a successful cloture vote.

The bill would require labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms nationwide. Previously, the decision of labeling was left up to states. Only one state — Vermont — currently has a GMO labeling law in effect, but several have adopted similar laws that have not been enacted.

Wednesday's cloture vote allows for up to 30 additional hours for debate, thwarting a chance at a filibuster. The bill has stirred up controversy from those opposed to genetically modified organisms in foods or those who want stricter labeling laws. Multiple sources, including ABC News and political website The Hill, reported protesters tossed $2,000 in paper money to the Senate floor before the vote while they chanted, "The Senate can be bought."

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., Is one of the senators opposing the bill, taking to Twitter on both his presidential campaign and senate accounts in opposition.

"The Senate is voting on a very bad piece of Monsanto-backed legislation today," a tweet from the presidential campaign said before the vote.

Sanders' home state of Vermont became the first to require GMO labeling July 1, so the bill would supercede the state law if passed.

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"The American people have a right to know what they're eating," Sanders said during a press conference on Capitol Hill, according to a press release posted before the cloture vote. "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."

States like Colorado and Oregon voted on similar bills in 2014, but these measures did not pass.

Sen. John Tester, D-Mont., and Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., rallied against the bill during Senate debate Wednesday. Part of their opposition was to the QR code labeling option the bill allows, saying it protects corporations more than consumers.

In support of the bill, tweets from the office of Senate Ranking Member Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., gave examples of why a national labeling standard should be set. One tweet showed a photo of two vegetable soup cans, but one contained ham. Meat products do not have to be labeled as genetically modified or engineered under the Vermont law, but under the proposed federal standard, meat would require a label, and so would both cans.

However, since one of the labeling options for companies would be to put a QR code on packages, adding a step for consumers, Sanders replied to the tweet by saying his statement can be found via QR code.

Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., voted against the previous GMO legislation the Senate saw earlier this year, but in a statement, voiced his support for the new bipartisan bill.

"Parents in Colorado have a right to know what's in the food they're feeding to their families," Bennet said in the release. "This bill isn't perfect, but it strikes a balance for Colorado producers, food and beverage makers, distributors, retailers and consumers. It provides clear information to Colorado consumers about their food without unduly harming conventional or organic farmers."

Supporting statements

“The Senate today did the right thing by voting to move toward a full debate on the merits of the GMO labeling bill. The legislation is not perfect, but it does take critical steps to prevent a confusing 50-state patchwork of laws disclosing the presence of entirely harmless ingredients. It is time for the Senate to pass this legislation so the House can do likewise at its first opportunity.”

— American Farm Bureau Federation

“The National Corn Growers Association is pleased the cloture vote on the Roberts-Stabenow GMO labeling agreement received 65 votes, more than the 60 votes necessary to move the legislation forward. However, there is still important work that needs to be done. We urge the Senate to quickly take action and pass this legislation.”

— National Corn Growers Association

“We are thankful for the tremendous showing of bipartisan support that has lined up behind this bill and we are hopeful that it will clear the Senate later this week. We saw over the weekend that the negative impacts of Vermont’s law are already hitting consumers and small businesses, with shoppers in Vermont seeing fewer options on the shelves. Ultimately, this could lead to higher prices and even lost jobs in other states. Fortunately, nearly 1,100 leading groups from agriculture producers to small businesses around the country have lined up in support of this bipartisan breakthrough agreement.”

— Pamela G. Bailey, President and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Coalition for Safe Affordable Food

Opposing statements

“When people feel that their leaders are out of touch, this bill proves their point. All the American people want is straightforward, easily obtained information about what’s in their food. The GMO bill before the Senate is a sham bill that falls well short of that standard.

“The definition under this bill is so narrow that most products will be exempt from labeling requirements, and the proposed system is so complicated that most consumers would give up before even trying.

“Finally, people have a right to know if their products contain GMOs because those plants are heavily treated with pesticides, and it is another reason to adopt the clear labeling standards that two thirds of the world already enjoys.”

— Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

“Today’s action by the Senate is exactly why Americans don’t trust Washington D.C. It’s a sad day when so many members of the U.S. Senate sell out to big food and big business and turn their backs on those who elected them. This flawed bill is a capitulation to the food industry that does not even come close to providing the transparency that consumers deserve.

“Vermont acted in good faith to provide its citizens with a common sense labeling law that guarantees clear, accessible information. For a Republican-controlled Congress that continually argues for states’ rights to act to take away Vermonters’ right to know what is in their food is the height of hypocrisy and a sad statement on the power of special interests in Congress.

— Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin, D

“How can you have a so-called ‘mandatory GMO labeling bill’ that doesn’t require on-package labels, doesn’t cover the most common GMO products, and doesn’t mandate a single consequence for companies that don’t comply? The answer is you can’t. This bill—the Monsanto DARK Act 2.0—contains the same basic flaws of the original Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act that the Senate rejected in March. It is a special-interest assault that takes away consumers’ right to know about GMO ingredients in their food.

“Any Senator who is serious about protecting consumers’ right to know what is in their food should be eager to amend this bill to fix these gaping loopholes. Nine in ten Americans, including Democrats, Republicans and independents, want clear labels on GMO ingredients in their food. Congress should defeat this bill and instead provide a clear national standard that gives consumers the easy-to-use label they want.”

— Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.