Late on Thursday, July 7, 2016, the United States Senate passed their version of the labeling GMO compromise bill. The bill is a compromise in that mandates labels for all products with genetically engineered ingredients, but allows companies to comply with the law by simply adding a QR code, website, or phone number.
The final vote was 63 to 30, with 41 Republicans and 22 Democrats supporting the legislation.
Senator Debbie Stabenow stressed in her comments on the Senate floor that there is no question as to the safety of genetically modified foods, citing the recent study done by the National Academy of Sciences. You can watch the full day of debate and voting here.
The “rush” to pass a labeling law comes after Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law went into effect on July 1st. Unfortunately, Vermont’s law is confusing and misleading to consumers. So far, several companies have decided to stop shipping thousands of products into the state, which reduces consumer choice and will eventually raise prices. There is also a concern that other states will now follow suit, creating mismatching laws that make it difficult for companies to comply with all of them.
As one might imagine, Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy from Vermont were both very critical of the compromise bill. They held a press conference outside of the Senate during debate, complaining that they didn’t have the opportunity to make comments on the Senate floor.
Although not everyone on the pro-GMO side is happy about the compromise bill (sentiments I can certainly understand!), many are satisfied with the bill. Personally, while I hate the idea of mandatory labeling, I think that some type of labeling is inevitable, and this is definitely a great compromise in our favor. If someone really cares about such meaningless information, then they can take the steps necessary to fulfill their “right to know.”
The Senate bill has not yet been taken up in the House. Although the House passed a voluntary GMO labeling bill last summer, it remains to be seen how it will handle this legislation. If the House does pass the bill, it will have to be signed by President Obama. It is unclear whether the President would sign the bill, though he had previously made promises to label GMOs.