- The Senate voted Wednesday, 65-32, to advance a bill that would mandate a national standard for GMO labeling. The bill gives manufacturers options for how to implement the label, including a QR code.
- The full and final Senate vote on passage of the bill is expected as early as Thursday evening.
- If Congress passes the bill, and the president signs it into law, it will override Vermont's GMO labeling law, which went into effect July 1, but will not be enforced until Jan. 1.
Leading up to Wednesday's vote, Monsanto released a statement that said 1,000 food, agriculture, and business organizations and companies supported the bipartisan bill; the Corn Refiners Association released results from an online survey calling the Vermont GMO labeling law "misleading" for consumers; and protesters with the Organic Consumers Association threw $2,000 in bills from the Senate gallery while shouting "Monsanto Money" and "Senator Stabenow, listen to the people not Monsanto."
The cloture vote was a major hurdle for the bipartisan bill's sponsors, Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Sen. Pat Roberts,R-KS,and committee ranking member Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-MI. Recently, Roberts was vague when asked if he would be able to garner the 60 votes needed for the cloture. But Agri-Pulse reported that 18 Democrats had voted in support of the bill.
The bill needs a simple majority vote to clear the full Senate floor and head to the House for final approval. Industry groups have praised the Senate's vote and urge Congress to pass the bill quickly.
Instead of the mandatory on-package statement required by Vermont's GMO labeling law, this bill gives manufacturers three options for implementing the label: an on-package statement, a USDA-created symbol, or a QR code consumers can scan with their smartphones. Smaller manufacturers can comply by printing a phone number or website on the product's packaging, and very small manufacturers are exempt.
Other exemptions would include products where meat, poultry, or eggs are the main ingredient, and products can no longer be considered genetically-modified because the animal consumed bioengineered feed. The bill would also limit the definition of what genetic modification entails, which would exempt a number of other products.
A number of Senate Democrats and consumer advocacy groups have contested the loopholes and the label's implementation options. Even the U.S. Food and Drug Administration questioned the tenets of the definition, though the agency has said in the past that GMOs are safe to consume.