Washington, DC—The United States Senate on Thursday voted 63-30 to pass legislation requiring that foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be labeled with words, pictures or a barcodes that consumers could scan with their smart phones. The bill, sponsored by Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, is a bipartisan compromise for a national GMO labeling law to avoid a patchwork of state laws that began with Vermont.
The Vermont GMO labeling law which went into effect on July 1 would be preempted once this bill is passed by the House of Representatives and signed into law by the president. Some farm groups and Big Food have long lobbied against the Vermont law, although huge brands like Campbell Soup and General Mills have accepted the movement toward transparency and have decided to voluntarily label GMO-containing products.
While mandatory labeling is still a burden most food manufacturers wanted to avoid, this bill is an ideal compromise, giving companies more freedom to choose how to disclose GMOs and avoiding patchworks of different label requirements for different U.S. states that would be expensive for the company and increase prices for the consumer. Anti-GMO advocates have criticized the bill for not being transparent enough by simply stating, as the Vermont law requires, “Produced with genetic engineering.”