What’s At Stake In The Senate’s Looming GMO Labeling Battle

A key debate regarding products that contain genetically modified organisms — specifically, the question of whether they should have to carry labels stating as much — is set for a showdown.

Last week, legislation cleared the Senate Agricultural Committee that would block state-level laws mandating GMO labeling. The legislation, which the committee passed with bipartisan support in a 14-6 vote, favors a voluntary national standard rather than mandatory labeling. It would pre-empt a labeling law in Vermont, the first of its kind in the U.S., that’s set to go into effect in July.

The bill, backed by Agriculture Committee Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), could be called to a Senate vote as early as next week, according to The Huffington Post’s sources. The House already approved similar legislation last year.

Backers of the Roberts bill, which include prominent industry figures like ConAgra, DuPont, Coca-Cola and Walmart, appear confident in the proposal’s chances, even as a rival group of senators has proposed alternative legislation.

The alternative bill, introduced last week, aims to protect state-level GMO laws while also working toward a plan that would avoid a national patchwork of conflicting regulations. It is backed by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

The Democrats’ bill outlines four different ways manufacturers can disclose the use of GMOs on the already-required nutrition facts panel. They include a catchall statement that the product was “produced with genetic engineering” at the end of the ingredient list and the inclusion of a symbol developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that would note the presence of GMOs. Neither front-panel disclosures nor “warnings” would be required.

In a statement provided to HuffPost, Merkley said the legislation is a step toward “a solution that works —> Read More