UPDATE: The Senate Agriculture Committee passed the GMO labeling bill 14-6 in a bipartisan vote. The bill will now go to the complete Senate.
Industry groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association and International Dairy Foods Association have already responded with their support for the committee's passage of the bill. However, Democrats demanding mandatory labeling will still be difficult to win over to get this bill passed by the full Senate. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) called the legislation a "sham bill" in a statement released Tuesday that encouraged other legislators not to pass it.
What's more, Politico reports that Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) will put forward a mandatory labeling bill Wednesday, with four labeling choices outlined. This would necessitate indicating GMO ingredients on Nutrition Facts labels.
- The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled on Tuesday to markup the voluntary GMO labeling bill introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) in February, following its postponement.
- Though it did give Roberts and the bill's supporters additional time to garner up more Democratic support, it still may not have been enough.
- Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) has expressed interest in reaching a compromise on the legislation that would appease both the sugar beet producers in her state and consumers. However, she doesn't believe the bill's voluntary labeling policy as it currently stands goes far enough, Heitkamp told Agri-Pulse.
Supporters of the bill tout higher costs for manufacturers regarding the logistics involved in distribution and creating different labels for individual state. Manufacturers may have to pass those costs on to consumers, which is another concern for legislators.
Opponents argue that Campbell, which backs mandatory GMO labeling, won't be raising prices for consumers when the company begins labeling GMO ingredients in its products over the next year and a half. Legislators also cite states' rights and consumers' right to know what is in their food as reasons that voluntary GMO labeling doesn't go far enough.
Compromise could come in the form of GMO information provided to consumers somewhere other than directly on the label, but that may still not be enough for Democratic legislators that are demanding labeling on the packaging.