Senate panel advances bill blocking state GMO labeling rules

Senate panel advances bill blocking state GMO labeling rules

A Senate panel voted Tuesday to advance legislation that would block states from imposing labeling requirements for genetically modified foods.

The Senate Agriculture Committee approved the bill in a 14-6 vote vote, sending it to the upper chamber's floor. The House passed similar legislation last year.

"Now is not the time for Congress to make food more expensive for anyone,” said Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsTrump tightens grip on GOP Overnight Finance: Senators introduce bill to curb Trump's tariff authority | McConnell calls it 'exercise in futility' | Kudlow warns WTO won't dictate policy | Mulvaney feud with consumer advocates deepens Senators introduce bill to curb Trump's tariff authority MORE (R-Kan.), who sponsored the bill.

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The bill comes amid a heated fight between consumer groups who want more information about so-called GMO foods and the food industry.

Supporters of the bill say that a patchwork of state rules will make it more costly for food companies to comply and that those costs will be passed on to consumers. They also say that additional labeling requirements are unnecessary for foods that have already been deemed safe by the government.

But Democrats who oppose the bill say consumers have a right to know what’s in the food they’re eating.

The GOP-backed bill would “move production methods into the shadows” and “give agriculture a black eye,” said Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyLive coverage: FBI chief, Justice IG testify on critical report Student rips DeVos at school safety commission for failure to take on guns DeVos: Safety commission won’t focus on role of guns in school violence MORE (D-Vt.).

“The legislation undermines the public’s right to know,” he added.

The bill would replace state-by-state mandatory GMO labeling requirements with a voluntary national standard.

The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Debbie StabenowDeborah (Debbie) Ann StabenowCongress must work with, not against, tribal communities in crafting Farm Bill Senate Dems to Mnuchin: Don't index capital gains to inflation This week: House GOP regroups after farm bill failure MORE (Mich.) said it does not go far enough to protect consumers. 

“It must contain a pathway to a national system of mandatory disclosures for consumers,” she said. “The bill before us today does not meet that important requirement. A voluntary program is not enough to meet consumer demand. That’s why I will not be voting for it."