Yesterday, Senate GMO labeling bill S. 2609 fell short of the 60 votes needed to “clear a key procedural barrier”, essentially bringing an end to Senator Pat Roberts legislation that he’d been championing for the past few weeks. As the Senate fails to agree on a national labeling standard, the clock continues to tick on the July 1st deadline for Vermont’s labeling law to take effect.
Vermont’s law requires GMO labeling, it’s not voluntary, whereas Senator Roberts bill was focused on voluntary labeling, coupled with participation in the SmartLabel system —
The Roberts bill would have set a 2-year window for at least 70% of foodmakers to join the industry-led SmartLabel system. Long touted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, the program labels products with smartphone-scannable QR barcodes leading to a page with more information on the food. USDA would have to set up a mandatory labeling system if participation failed to hit 70% in 2 years.
Montana Organic farmer/Senator Jon Tester spoke on the Senate floor before the vote and sharply criticized Roberts’ legislation:
“If you think this is giving the consumer a right to know what’s in their food, you’re wrong. This is a game,” Tester said.
Meanwhile, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley still looks to push his own bill (co-sponsored by Tester), S. 2621, through the Senate — a bill that offers 4 different options for companies to label GMOs. We’ll see what happens as the Senate returns to session soon…