Senate Dems block GMO labeling bill

Senate Democrats on Wednesday blocked legislation that would create a voluntary national standard for labeling rules for foods with genetically modified organisms (GMOs). 
Senators voted 49-48 on a procedural hurdle, with 60 votes needed to move forward. The measure would ban states from issuing their own mandatory labeling rules. 
{mosads}But Democrats argue that that the GOP bill, spearheaded by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), lacks teeth and doesn’t allow the public to know what is in their food. 
Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told reporters ahead of Wednesday’s vote that voluntary labeling will “amount to no labeling at all, and that’s not what the people want.” 
“It’s a huge step backwards for the consumers in this country,” he added, referring to Roberts’s legislation. 
Instead, Democrats, led by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), have offered a rival labeling bill that would allow manufacturers to choose one of four ways to label GMOs.
Democrats suggested that while Wednesday’s vote would be close, they were hopeful they had enough support to be able to block the GOP legislation.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) has been negotiating with Roberts to try to get an agreement, but she said earlier Wednesday that a deal remains elusive. 
“I’m forever the optimist that we will get there, even though we are not there yet,” she said. “If we at this point do not proceed but can have some more time, I believe it is possible for us to come together in a bipartisan solution.” 
The legislation has also sparked pushback from consumer groups. Consumers Union, the advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, sent an open letter to senators earlier this week arguing that the bill duplicates voluntary labeling standards already in place while blocking states from action.
Supporters of Roberts’s legislation, however, warn that the the current patchwork of state laws could make it expensive for companies to comply, driving up food prices. 
Roberts suggested blocking the legislation could result in consumers spending an additional $82 billion per year. 
“[We’re voting on] whether or not to prevent a wrecking ball from hitting our entire food supply chain,” he said, adding that state laws will cause “havoc.” 
He also accused Democrats of releasing legislation but not allowing it to come up for a vote, asking: “Will their proposals pass the Senate or, better yet, the House? In short, where is their solution?”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) voted against the legislation, using a procedural tactic that will allow him to potentially bring it back up.
Democrats suggested they were open to continuing negations to try to get an agreement. Any potential deal, they suggested, would need to be more in line with Merkley’s legislation.
The House passed a similar proposal last year. 
Tags Debbie Stabenow Jeff Merkley Jon Tester Mitch McConnell Pat Roberts

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