U.S. House passes labeling bill, legislation awaits president’s signature | TheFencePost.com

U.S. House passes labeling bill, legislation awaits president’s signature

Samantha Fox

A sprinkler rises slightly above the rows of growing corn stalks Tuesday afternoon in west Greeley. Due to a few late snow storms in the spring, many crops are running behind schedule, meaning farmers will need more time to harvest this fall.

A signature from President Barack Obama is all that remains to pass a national labeling standard for genetically modified organisms.

The GMO bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives July 14 with a 306-117 vote — less than a week after the Senate approved it, 63-30. The bill was proposed to create a national standard for GMO labels, instead of state-by-state regulations. Only one state — Vermont — has a GMO labeling requirement in effect. Several states have adopted similar laws that have not yet been enacted, and others, including Colorado and Oregon, voted down GMO labeling initiatives.

The GMO bill passed the U.S. House of Representatives Thursday with a 306-117 vote — less than a week after the Senate approved it, 63-30. The bill was proposed to create a national standard for GMO labels, instead of state-by-state regulations. Only one state — Vermont — has a GMO labeling requirement in effect. Several states have adopted similar laws that have not yet been enacted, and others, including Colorado and Oregon, voted down GMO labeling initiatives.

Critics of Vermont's law said state-level GMO labeling means companies must adjust their policies if more states start to pass their own regulations. That's why Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., favored Senate's bill.

“I have said this is the most important food and agriculture policy debate of the last 20 years. I am confident we have put forward a comprehensive solution that considers all aspects of our food production and delivery system while keeping the consumer top of mind.”

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"A GMO labeling mandate ties up food producers in red tape, driving up costs for Colorado families," Buck said in a news release. "A flawed labeling law in one state should not lead us to create a shortsighted law for the other 49 states."

The bill was the Senate's second attempt at overriding Vermont's labeling law, but the first didn't make it through, since it only made labeling voluntary.

With the president's signature, the bill will allow companies to decide how to label food items with GMO products, whether by printing it on the label, by directing consumers to a website or by using a QR code, which smart phone users can scan to bring up a web page.

"I have said this is the most important food and agriculture policy debate of the last 20 years," Sen. Pat Roberts – R, Kan., said in a news release after the House vote. "I am confident we have put forward a comprehensive solution that considers all aspects of our food production and delivery system while keeping the consumer top of mind."

The required labeling didn't feel like enough for some opponents of the bill. Ruth Chantry, who grows organic vegetables in Raymond, Neb., said the leniency of labels isn't necessary for farmers to do well. Chantry said farmers can grow non-GMO products if that's what consumers want.

But proponents of GMO technology say the bill provides a way for consumers to get information they need, while making it easier on producers to get the information to the public.

"I think everybody has a different want of the information that they're after," said Dave Eckhardt, president of Colorado Corn and a farmer in LaSalle. "It's a cost issue for anyone who has to go ahead and label it. I think in the long run, a consumer is going to let (companies) know what's acceptable." ❖