WASHINGTON, June 22, 2016 - Leaders of the Senate Agriculture Committee have been closing in on a landmark deal to set national standards for labeling biotech foods. The negotiations have been described as very delicate and the principal negotiators, Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, have not been discussing the details.
But Roberts has been expressing confidence that he and Stabenow would reach agreement. He said in a statement late Tuesday, “We’ve been working overtime and are closer than ever to reaching a bipartisan deal, but we’re not there yet.”
Even if they do announce an agreement, it’s possible that their compromise won’t be enacted before July 1, when Vermont’s first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law becomes effective.
House members will have to formally approve whatever the Senate passes, and the House will be out of session after Friday through Independence Day. Vermont has delayed enforcement of the law, however, so delaying final approval until next month would have little practical impact on food companies.
Some proponents of mandatory GMO labeling have been trying to keep the pressure on Republicans and Democrats. On Tuesday, representatives of Consumers Union and Food and Water Watch delivered packages of products that have been labeled in accordance with the Vermont law to 25 Senate offices.
The packages included cans of Dr. Pepper, Schweppes ginger ale, M&Ms, Nature Valley granola bars, Campbell’s soup and Quaker Oats cereal cups that were purchased at Washington-area stores last weekend. A card with the package says, “As you can see by these snacks, food companies are already labeling products that contain genetically ingredients. On-package labels are simple, straightforward and they’re want consumers want.”
Meanwhile, an Iowa-based activist group, Food Democracy Now!, has brought out a mobile billboard that will travel around key cities of select states. The billboard targeting Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., includes her picture and says “It doesn’t pay to take Monsanto’s money! Support strong mandatory GMO labeling.” The group’s founder, Dave Murphy, said the group also would target Stabenow and Roberts as well as Joe Donnelly, D-Ind.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D.; and Mark Kirk, R-Ill.
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