Week ahead: Fight brews over GMO labeling bill

Hotly contested legislation to block states from issuing their own mandatory labeling laws on genetically modified foods is going before the Senate Agriculture Committee on Tuesday.

The committee had originally planned to discuss the draft bill, introduced by Chairman Pat RobertsPat RobertsUSDA extends comment period for 'certified organic' animal rule Senate contradicts itself on Gitmo GOP senators propose sending ISIS fighters to Gitmo MORE (R-Kan.), last Thursday but had to delay.

The proposed legislation requires the Agriculture secretary to establish a national voluntary labeling standard for bioengineered foods, those that include genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as ingredients. It's similar to the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 that passed the House in June.

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Consumer groups are outraged and ready to fight a bill they say keeps Americans in the dark about what they are eating.

More than 2,000 chefs and food professionals from 37 states, including celebrity chef Tom Colicchio, a judge on Bravo's "Top Chef," have signed a petition from Food Policy Action urging the Senate to reject any attempt to prevent the mandatory labeling of foods made with GMOs.

"As chefs, we care about what's in the food we cook and serve to our customers," the petition says. "But if the processed and junk food companies get their way, our right to know what's in the food we serve and eat is scheduled to be just a memory."

Proponents of the legislation, however, say a voluntary solution is needed to prevent a patchwork of state laws that would inevitably drive up food prices.

The Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food says Congress can't allow states like Vermont to implement unprecedented labeling laws.

"Congress must act quickly to pass a national food labeling solution that offers farmers, families and food producers the certainty and access to the affordable and sustainable food supply they deserve," Claire Parker, the group's spokeswoman said in a news release. "Time is running out, and consumers will ultimately pay the price of delay and inaction."

Elsewhere on The Hill, the Senate Finance Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing to examine the multiemployer pension plan system on Tuesday. http://1.usa.gov/1RteFOi

The same day, a House Energy subpanel plans to look at pipeline safety.

On Wednesday, the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is set to hold an oversight hearing on the Federal Communications Commission. Chairman Tom Wheeler and the commissioners can expect tough question on net neutrality and their regulatory plans for the coming year.

The same day, he Senate Environment and Public Works committee is scheduled to look at changes to the Solid Waste Disposal Act.

Across the Capitol on Wednesday, the House Agriculture panel looks at state options for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.

And on Thursday, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing to discuss how dogs contribute to Homeland Security. http://1.usa.gov/1QL1Odk 

The Senate Banking Committee is scheduled to look at "regulatory reforms to improve equity market structure" on the same day.

And on Friday, a House Veterans Affairs subcommittee plans to examine how the VA prescribes opiods and other powerful painkillers.

 

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