Group drops $2,000 on Senate floor to protest GMO bill

Members of the Organic Consumers Association threw money from the Senate gallery onto the floor on Wednesday to protest a vote on a bill to block states from issuing mandatory labeling laws for foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The protesters yelled "Monsanto Money" and "Sen. Stabenow, listen to the people, not Monsanto" while $2,000 fell to the floor.

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The disturbance came during a procedural vote to advance the bill in the Senate. 

In an email to The Hill, U.S. Capitol Police spokeswoman Eva Malecki said four people were arrested for the disturbance in the Senate gallery and are being charged with unlawfully demonstrating, a misdemeanor.

The legislation, authored by Sen. Debbie StabenowDebbie StabenowMedicare’s coverage decisions need more input from physicians Members help package meals at Kraft Heinz charity event in DC Senate braces for fallout over Supreme Court fight MORE (D-Mich.) and Sen. Pat RobertsPat RobertsTrump tax plan prompts GOP fears about deficit Overnight Energy: Trump to sign orders on offshore drilling, national monuments Watchdog: EPA spending on water pollution campaign was legal MORE (R-Kan.), allows food producers to use QR codes, or a form of barcode, that consumers scan with smartphones to find out if a product contains GMOs. The codes would come in place of a label that the product was “produced with genetic engineering” — something now required by state laws in Vermont, Maine, Connecticut and Alaska.

Opponents have nicknamed the bill, and others like it, the DARK, or Denying Americans the Right to Know, Act.

The Organic Consumers Association said the money is to highlight the fact that senators who received money from Monsanto and other agribusinesses are voting against the 9 out of 10 people in America who support GMO labels.

“When Congress moves to crush the will of 9 out of 10 Americans because they need companies like Monsanto to fund their campaigns, you know our democracy is in real trouble,” Alexis Baden-Mayer, the group’s political director who participated in the action, said in a statement. “The corporate lobbyists are totally corrupt.”

In a statement to The Hill, Monsanto said 1,000 food, agriculture and business organizations and companies back the bipartisan solution from Roberts and Stabenow.  

“The overwhelming majority of food and agriculture is voicing support for this bill with the members of the U.S. Senate,” Charla Lord, the company’s spokeswoman, said.

Critics of the bill say Congress is letting special interest money decide the fate of GMO labeling, instead of doing what consumers clearly want.

“Surveys consistently show 80-90 percent support for clear, concise labeling, exactly what thousands of products are already doing to comply with Vermont,” Errol Schweizer, a former Whole Foods executive, said in a statement. “And consumers are voting with their dollars to make Organic and non-GMO the fastest growth trends in the food industry.”