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GMO food labeling bill stalls in the U.S. Senate

Measure that would have voided state labeling rules fails to garner enough support, but could come up again later this year

by Britt E. Erickson
March 18, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 12

New York residents gathered together at the New York State Capitol in Albany on March 8, 2016, to make GMO labeling the law in New York State.
Credit: Erik Mcgregor/ZUMA Press/Newscom
An increasing number of consumers want to know whether GMOs are in their food.

Legislation that would block states from requiring labels on genetically modified (GMO) foods faltered in the Senate last week.

The measure, which was offered as an amendment to an unrelated bill (S. 764), would prohibit states from requiring labels on GMO foods and establish a federal voluntary labeling standard. In a 48-49 vote, the bill failed to garner enough support for the Senate to move it forward.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) left open the possibility of holding a vote on the GMO food labeling legislation at a later date.

Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who introduced the legislation, and supporters of his proposal, including the food industry, are anxious to get the measure enacted before a law requiring labels on GMO foods goes into effect in Vermont on July 1. Other states are also planning similar laws.

The food industry claims that a patchwork of state labeling laws will be costly for companies and, ultimately, consumers. Environmental and food safety advocacy groups are calling the Senate bill’s defeat a victory for consumers, who they say have the right to know what is in their food.

Roberts, chairman of the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry Committee, is urging opponents of his proposal to work with him toward a solution. “I have been flexible and have compromised in order to address concerns about making information available to consumers,” he says.


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