WASHINGTON, June 10, 2016 - Leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee said they were making “good progress” toward an agreement on labeling biotech foods but still had several issues to resolve. 

Aides to the committee met until 10:30 p.m. Thursday and continued the negotiations Friday, said Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan. 

“We made good progress. We had a productive meeting, and we’re still working on it,” Roberts said. 

The committee's ranking Democrat, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, interviewed separately, described the talks as “very positive, very positive” but said she didn’t expect an agreement on Friday. “We’re working hard. We’re not there yet.” 

Sources say the industry has agreed to some kind of mandatory disclosure requirements for foods with biotech ingredients and an exemption for meat and dairy products that come from animals that eat GMO feed. 

However, there still have been disagreements about USDA’s role in writing the disclosure standards and whether they would apply to processed products such as soup that contain meat. The meat industry wants those products exempt from disclosure even if the products contain an ingredient such as high fructose corn syrup that is made from a genetically engineered crop.

Roberts said the issue involving meat-containing products still hadn’t been resolved. He quipped,  “I heard when I was growing up that you had to chew your food about 28 times. We’re about 26 now on meat.”

Roberts also has been insisting on flexibility for small, regionally based businesses as well as language that would prevent the courts from being used to mandate on-package labeling for GMOs.

Stabenow declined to discuss specific issues. 

Roberts expressed confidence that he and Stabenow would reach an agreement that could get the 60 votes necessary to pass the Senate. 

“We have to. It’s not a matter of if, but when," Roberts said. 

Vermont's first-in-the-nation GMO labeling requirements take effect July 1. 

Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., described the talks as having “intensified,” but said he didn’t expect a deal before next week. Carper’s state is home to one of the leading biotech seed companies, DuPont.