Senate Dems offer rival bill on GMO food labels

Senate Democrats are pushing a rival bill on labeling for genetically modified foods.

The Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act unveiled Wednesday would require manufacturers to disclose the presence of genetically modified organisms on a product’s Nutrition Fact Panel. Manufacturers, though, would have a choice in how they comply.

They could choose to put the words “genetically engineered” in parentheses next to a relevant ingredient; identify GM ingredients with an asterisk and provide an explanation for the asterisk at the bottom of the ingredients list; or apply a catch-all statement at the end of the ingredient list stating the product was “produced with genetic engineering” ingredients.

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Sens. Jeff MerkleyJeff MerkleyOvernight Energy: Senate panel backs 0M for global climate fund Senate panel approves 0M for international climate fund The Hill's 12:30 Report MORE (Ore.), Patrick LeahyPatrick LeahyDems leery of Planned Parenthood cuts spark Senate scuffle Israel’s false friends Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream MORE (Vt.), Jon TesterJon TesterBernie Sanders’s awkward return to the Senate Senators roll out bipartisan gun proposal Congress should stop government hacking and protect the Fourth Amendment MORE (Mont.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinHomeland Security Committee pushes encryption commission in new report Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Clinton endorses Warner-McCaul encryption commission MORE (Calif.), who offered the bill, called it a common-sense compromise to the fight over requiring mandatory labels for GMO foods. They said it would inform consumers without burdening manufacturers with a patchwork of state regulations.

Their legislation comes as the Senate is poised to vote on a Republican bill that would block states from issuing mandatory GMO labeling laws and establish a voluntary federal standard. Supporters of the GOP measure say it's necessary to provide a patchwork of state-by-state regulations. But critics of the GOP approach want a mandatory federal standard for GMO labels.

The legislation would also give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to develop a symbol, in consultation with food manufacturers, that would clearly and conspicuously disclose the presence of GMOs on packaging.

“There is a way to give consumers the information they are asking for without placing unfair or conflicting requirements on food producers,” Merkley said in a statement. “This legislation provides the common-sense pathway forward.