Senate Blocks GMO Labeling Bill Seen as Weak by Food Transparency Advocates

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The U.S. Senate failed to pass legislation this week that would have created voluntary national standards for labeling foods in the supply chain made with genetically modified ingredients. This came as good news to groups that support GMO labeling and likely to the roughly 90% of Americans who want the government to require food companies to disclose when they use genetically modified ingredients.

For GMO labeling supporters, there were numerous problems with the proposed bill that received a vote of 48-49 in the Senate on March 16 — it needed 60 yes votes to pass. Take the “voluntary” part, for one. Sen. Jon Tester, a Democrat from Montana, said “voluntary standards” meant no standards at all, The New York Times reported.

Others, like the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit public interest and environmental advocacy organization, said the bill would have created a “voluntary labeling scheme” that required consumers to scan QR codes or visit a website to obtain information on GMO ingredients. Those who opposed the bill have called it the “Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act.”

Just Label It, a campaign advocating for GMO labeling, applauded Tester and other senators that voted against the bill, which was introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts, of Kansas.

“Simply put, Senator Roberts’ proposal didn’t deserve the support of the Senate,” Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It, said in a statement. “It would have implemented yet another unworkable and confusing voluntary labeling system.”

Another issue was that the bill, if passed, would have blocked states from requiring GMO labels. It also meant Vermont would have been blocked from implementing its own GMO labeling law, which was set to go into effect July 1. Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin was glad the U.S. Senate opposed Robert’s bill that would have blocked his state’s law.

“The food industry, led by Monsanto, has left no stone unturned in their effort deny consumer rights and thwart Vermont’s law,” Gov. Shumlin said in a statement. “Today’s effort in the U.S. Senate was just the latest attempt. It will not be the last. Vermont will continue to fight to implement our law on July 1 and give consumers the right they are demanding.”

GMO labeling supporters believe the Senate denial of the bill this week will mean the government will have to truly come together to develop a stronger, bipartisan bill that addresses consumer demands.

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