A news update today from the Senate Agricultural Committee indicated that, “U.S. Senator Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, today held a business meeting where the Chairman’s Mark on Biotechnology Labeling Solutions [bill here, summary here] was favorably reported with a bipartisan vote of 14-6.”
“The legislation, which creates a national solution for a state-by-state patchwork of biotechnology labeling laws, now heads to the full Senate for consideration. Chairman Roberts will continue to work toward a final solution that wins approval on the Senate floor.”
Today’s news release added that, “The legislation has the support of more than 650 farmers, cooperatives, agribusinesses, processors, seed makers, handlers, food and feed manufacturers, lenders, and retailers.
“The U.S. House of Representatives last July passed legislation on this topic with a bipartisan vote of 275-150.
“The Senate Agriculture Committee last October held a hearing on agriculture biotechnology with federal regulators and perspectives from producers and consumers – the first biotechnology hearing in 10 years. The hearing focused on science and the role of the regulatory system to help ensure a safe and affordable food supply for consumers at home and around the globe.”
Senator Heidi Heitkamp (D., N.D.) noted in a news release that, “[She] today voted with a bipartisan majority of the Senate Committee on Agriculture to advance a bill on biotechnology labeling introduced by Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS). The bill can now be considered by the full Senate.
“Heitkamp continues to have concerns that the bill, which aims to prevent a variety of differing state laws on GMO labeling rules, will not guarantee consumers access to the information they want about their food. She will continue to push to strengthen Roberts’ bill as it moves forward by pressing for more robust disclosure of biotech ingredients in foods, without stigmatizing biotechnology.”
However, Ag Committee Ranking Member, Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.) indicated at today’s markup that, “We agree that science has shown us that biotechnology is safe.
“We agree that biotechnology is an important tool for farmers and producers – particularly as we tackle the challenges of climate change and the need to feed a growing population around the world.
“And we agree that a 50-state patchwork of labeling laws is not a workable, long-term solution.
“But I also recognize that a growing number of American consumers want to know more about the food they eat.”
Ranking Member Stabenow noted that, “As I have said from the beginning of this process: for a solution, which includes a 50 state preemption, to receive the broad support necessary to pass the Senate; it must contain a pathway to a national system of mandatory disclosure that provides consumers the information they need and want to make informed choices.
“Mr. Chairman, I share your urgency to get this done.
“However, the bill before us today does not meet that important requirement.
“A voluntary program is not enough to meet consumer demand. That is why I cannot support it.”