Senate Stalls Industry-Backed GMO Labeling Bill

WASHINGTON — The Senate blocked a bill Wednesday that would have set voluntary labeling standards for genetically modified foods but would also have barred states like Vermont from setting their own rules.

Republicans argued that companies will soon face a morass of competing label laws that will raise costs for firms and prices for consumers and frighten Americans unnecessarily.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said the bill was “aimed at protecting middle-class families from unfair higher food prices” and argued that calls for labeling based on unfounded fears of genetically engineered foods’ safety.

The bill’s lead advocate in the Senate, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), cited an industry study done for the Corn Refiners Association to allege that consumers would have to pay an extra $82 billion a year if the country were to abide by rules similar to Vermont’s GMO labeling law.

He argued that labeling was essentially a profit-making scheme for organic food companies.

“It’s not about safety, it’s not about health, it’s not about nutrition. It’s all about marketing,” said Roberts.

The measure failed to pass a procedural vote, falling 48 to 49.

A number of Democrats did not entirely disagree with Roberts, asserting that genetically engineered foods are safe and that a “50-state patchwork” of rules was counter-productive.

“Leading health organizations like the American Medical Association, the National Academy of Sciences, the FDA, the World Health Organization all say that there’s no evidence that GMOs aren’t safe,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.), the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee. “We agree that biotechnology is an important tool for farmers and ranchers, particularly as we tackle the challenges of climate change, which, by the way, science also tells us is real, and I believe in science.”

But she opposed the bill, nevertheless, on the grounds that Americans should be able to —> Read More

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