WASHINGTON, July 6, 2016 - The U.S. Senate today will decide the fate of its landmark biotech disclosure bill. An aide to Senate Agriculture Chairman Pat Roberts says he’s “cautiously optimistic” that the legislation will get the 60 votes needed on a critical cloture motion this afternoon to limit debate on the bill. 

A procedural vote last week to bring up the legislation had 68 votes, although one of the Republicans who supported that motion, Ben Sasse of Nebraska, told a home-state newspaper that he actually opposes the bill. 

The cloture motion would allow as many as 30 hours of additional debate on the bill, but industry groups are keeping their fingers crossed that the Senate can take a final vote before the weekend. That would send the bill over to the House for its final OK. An aide to House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway says he will wait until the Senate acts on the legislation before he takes a position on what the House should do with it. 

Survey raises alarm on labeling impact. Just ahead of today’s vote, industry groups released results of an online survey that underscored concerns that on-pack GMO labeling could scare away consumers. Three-quarters of the consumers surveyed indicate that Vermont’s GMO labeling language would make them less likely buy the product. 

If the Senate bill becomes law, most companies are expected to use digital disclosure for biotech ingredients rather than the on-pack labeling now required by Vermont. 

About one-third of those surveyed believe that a GMO label means that the biotech food is less safe. Nearly 30 percent say the label indicates GMOs aren’t as healthful as other foods. In another bothersome finding for the industry, 52 percent of the respondents view the genetic engineering of crops as negative. Just 22 percent of those surveyed have a positive view of agricultural biotechnology.

The survey was conducted June 13-21 by the MSR Group.

Chamber key votes GMO bill. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has advised Senate offices that the today’s biotech vote will be a key vote in its ratings. In a letter to senators, the Chamber’s executive vice president for government affairs, Bruce Josten, says the legislation “represents a strong bipartisan effort to prevent increased costs and the chaos that would result” from state labeling regulations. 

For more on the GMO bill and the state of play in Congress, check out this week’s Agri-Pulse newsletter. 

Trump back on the Hill Thursday. Donald Trump will be back on Capitol Hill on Thursday and is expected to meet with much of the House Republican conference this time. Previously, he met with the House GOP leadership. House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., says it will be an opportunity for Republicans to raise the concerns they have with the presumptive GOP nominee. 

Republicans also are expected to push Trump to support the GOP campaign agenda, called “A Better Way.” The agenda includes proposals to reign in environmental regulations and to reform food stamps and other anti-poverty programs.

Sanders pressing party to disavow TPP. Bernie Sanders is making a last-ditch effort to get Democrats to go on record opposing a vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership. The campaign sent out an alert warning that Friday is the last chance to change the draft platform. Sanders wants to get this sentence included in the platform: “It is the policy of the Democratic Party that the Trans-Pacific Partnership should not get a vote in the lame duck session of Congress and beyond.”

The current trade language in the platform says there is a “diversity of views” within the party on the TPP.  “All Democrats believe that any trade agreement must protect workers and the environment and not undermine access to critically-needed prescription drugs.”

By the way, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a TPP supporter, won’t be addressing the Democratic convention - unless Hillary Clinton picks him as her running mate. President Obama has reportedly told cabinet members that they cannot speak at the convention. 

EPA giving more time for atrazine comments. The Environmental Protection Agency is extending by two months the comment period on draft ecological risk assessments the agency prepared on the effects of atrazine, simazine and propazine. The new comment period will end Oct. 4. 

The agency says it received a number of extension requests from different stockholders who cited among other things the difficulty of filing comments during the growing season. The draft assessment for atrazine found the widely used weedkiller in watersheds at levels well above those expected to cause adverse effects to amphibians and other aquatic life.

They said it. “Biotechnology is the future of food, agriculture, and medicine, and it is a cornerstone of domestic investment and innovation.” - the U.S. Chamber of Commerce
Steve Davies contributed to this report.


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