White House: Obama to sign 'bipartisan' GMO disclosure bill

By Philip Brasher

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.



WASHINGTON, July 13, 2016 - The White House confirmed that President Obama will sign the GMO disclosure bill that is expected to receive final congressional approval from the House on Thursday. 

“While there is broad consensus that foods from genetically engineered crops are safe, we appreciate the bipartisan effort to address consumers' interest in knowing more about their food, including whether it includes ingredients from genetically engineered crops,” said White House spokeswoman Katie Hill.  “We look forward to tracking its progress in the House and anticipate the President would sign it in its current form.”

On Wednesday, the House approved a procedural rule for debating the legislation that will not allow consideration of any amendments. Any changes to the bill would send it back to the Senate, where the compromise was developed. 

Lets Talk Food

Leaders of the House Agriculture Committee, Chairman Mike Conaway and ranking member Collin Peterson, told Agri-Pulse that they expect a majority of both Republicans and Democrats to vote for the legislation on final passage. 

The Democrats who will vote for the bill will include Minority Whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland, an aide said. Hoyer voted against a voluntary labeling bill that the House passed, 275-150, a year ago.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack has been an active supporter of settling the GMO labeling issue, and his department has been advising House and Senate aides for more than  a year during development of both this bill and the earlier House measure. 

The Senate compromise that the House will vote on Thursday would mandate that companies provide information on biotech ingredients, but the measure gives firms the option of providing the disclosure digitally rather than through text on labels. The House bill would have left GMO labeling as voluntary. 

The Food and Drug Administration raised concerns about ambiguous language in the Senate legislation, but the USDA's general counsel has sent separate letters to the House and Senate providing assurances on how the legislation would be interpreted. 

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During debate on the procedural rule Wednesday, Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., called the legislation a “very, very weak GMO labeling bill” because of the digital disclosure option. “It is an intentional measure to deny consumers information,” McGovern said. 

However, Peterson said strong backing for the bill among Senate Democrats will encourage House Democrats to back it. The bill passed the Senate, 63-30, with the support of 21 Democrats. Conaway said a wide margin on final passage would reflect the heavy lobbying from the extensive coalition of agriculture and food interests. More than 1,100 groups and companies signed a letter to the House endorsing the measure

The House approved the rule, 242-185, Wednesday afternoon. The margin was likely not indicative of what may happen with the final GMO bill because the rule also covered a far more controversial abortion-related measure that Democrats broadly oppose. 

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