Sanders said his amendment was necessary since state legislatures that have passed GE labeling requirements and are being threatened by seed company Monsanto, which says states don’t have the right to force such labels.
Monsanto is one of the largest manufacturers of genetically engineered seeds. Environmentalists have argued that those seeds pose health and environmental risks. At least 26 states have considered or passed legislation on the labeling of genetically modified food.
“People are concerned about the quality of the food there are ingesting and giving their kids,” Sanders said. “This is not some kind of new and crazy idea.”
Sanders said his amendment would have given the Department of Agriculture one year to figure out how to best carry out the requirement. He pointed out that several European countries label their genetically engineered food, so it shouldn’t be difficult or problematic.
The Senate is considering a $955 billion five-year farm bill. The Senate isn’t expecting to finish work on the bill this week, but it will likely pick it back up in June.
S. 954 would cut more than $23 billion from current spending levels over 10 years, including $4 billion worth of cuts in food stamps, which has led to some Democratic opposition.
Several other Democratic senators have introduced amendments on genetically engineered food, including Sens. Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Mark Begich (Alaska).
Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) said Sanders’s amendment was not needed because the Food and Drug Administration has said there is no need to worry about genetically engineered crops. He urged his colleagues to vote against it.
“We already have policies and procedures in place in the Food and Drug Administration to address labeling of foods,” Roberts said. “It ensures all labels of all foods are truthful.”
The White House has said it supports the Senate farm bill, which shifts farm subsidies away from direct payments to farmers and toward expanded crop insurance.
The House has a $940 billion farm bill that cuts spending by $39.7 billion over 10 years — $20.5 billion are cuts to food stamps. The House bill likely won’t get a floor vote until June.