Federal labeling setback as lawmakers
By Diego Flammini
Assistant Editor, North American Content
The United States Senate blocked Kansas Senator Pat Roberts’s GMO labeling bill (S. 2609) on March 16, which if passed, would have allowed states to label GMOs on food on a voluntary basis as of July 1.
The bill, referred to as the DARK (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act by anti-GMO activists, didn’t receive the 60 necessary votes to pass – the votes were split 49 in favor of the bill and 48 against.
As a result of the vote, organizations representing farmers are speaking out, as the bill would introduced a new federal labeling standard before laws take effect in Vermont in July.
“(The) Senate vote was deeply disappointing to America’s farmer co-ops and their farm owners,” said Chuck Conner, National Council of Farmer Cooperatives President in a statement. “The legislation would have helped avoid a costly patchwork state of labeling laws, increased the information about food available to consumers, and given farmers some certainty as they make future planting decisions.”
In a statement, the American Soybean Association said it’s disappointed with the outcome of the vote but the organization is looking at the bigger picture.
“(It’s) a temporary detour in a larger effort.”
The National Corn Growers Association said it too is disappointed with the voting results and that the bill would’ve given consumers more information in a clearer manner.
Despite his bill being defeated in the Senate, Senator Roberts isn’t planning on going down without a fight.
“I remain at the ready to work on a solution,” he told Reuters.
One point of contention with the bill is that it would’ve allowed each state to make its own rules about GMO labels. As a result, farmers may have been forced to completely overhaul their planting decisions based on what they’re growing, who the commodities are being sold to and consumer demands.
At the Commodity Classic on March 4 in New Orleans, USDA Secretary Vilsack said national GMO labeling rules may be necessary.
“Congress needs to act, and they need to act in the very, very short term,” he said according to Hoosier Ag Today. “It’s going to be important to avoid the kind of chaos that could ensue if we have 50 different states developing their own labeling requirements, or individual companies deciding to establish their own individual company’s label requirements.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 31 states have pending GMO bills including Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.