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 RobertsKobach says he's more prepared for 'propaganda' in Senate campaign Pompeo: Senate run 'off the table' Grassley gambles on drug price bill despite GOP doubts 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 LeahyAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules 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 StabenowUSDA cuts payments promised to researchers as agency uproots to Kansas City USDA eases relocation timeline as researchers flee agency USDA office move may have broken law, watchdog says 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."