- USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has officially voiced his support for mandatory GMO labeling because he believes the Senate could realistically get the votes to pass such a proposal.
- The voluntary GMO labeling bill's passage in the Senate Agriculture Committee has divided Senate Democrats, including those who voted in favor of the bill in the committee, such as Heidi Heitcamp (D-ND). This demonstrates the bill's potential inability to drum up enough support across the full Senate.
- Elsewhere, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has introduced a mandatory GMO labeling bill specifically for salmon that would require "genetically engineered" or "GE" to appear on the product label. The bill would also require a third-party review of the FDA's decision to pronounce AquAdvantage salmon safe for human consumption.
Vilsack's support of mandatory labeling for GMO ingredients could signal a sea change in the momentum of this GMO labeling debate. He told reporters that the government should give food companies enough time to determine the best way to label products, whether it be a toll-free number, smart label, or wording directly on the packaging.
The voluntary bill will be a tough sell across the entire Senate. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who voted in support of the bill's passage through the agriculture committee, told Politico she doesn't believe the bill will remain in its current state if it has a chance of being passed.
Also, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) introduced a mandatory GMO labeling bill last week. This could lead to a battle of the bills on the Senate floor to see which legislation will pass first before Vermont's mandatory GMO labeling law goes into effect in July.
Murkowski collaborated with the FDA on the language to be used in her mandatory GMO labeling bill after she blocked the nomination of Dr. Richard Califf as FDA chief. She lifted that block earlier this year per the FDA's cooperation and assistance. Murkowski is still against the FDA's decision to approve GMO salmon in the first place, which was why she has included a third-party review of that decision in the bill.
This salmon bill may have a better chance of passing through the Senate more quickly than a more overarching GMO labeling bill. It impacts a smaller percentage of American businesses and consumer purchases while still being a step in the direction of the labeling standards consumers have asked for.