Last week, the U.S. Senate passed a bill that aims to create national standards for labeling food made with genetically modified organisms (GMOs), by a vote of 63 to 30. It can be considered a win for farm groups, biotech firms and food companies, all of which have been lobbying the federal government to head off a patchwork of state labeling laws with a national standard. But critics of GMO say the bill doesn't do enough to protect consumers who want to know whether GM ingredients are in their food.
Speaking against the bill, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) described it as "a farce of a proposal." He asserted that "with the swift speed with which the proponents of this bill have moved, with no committee process, no debate or amendment process, we will not be able to ensure the language in this bill does exactly what they say that it does. Just take their word for it."
As a voice in favor of the bill, Senator Joe Donnelly (D-IN) said "it will provide fair and objective information without stigmatizing foods that are completely safe. After months of discussion, we have found a sensible proposal that will bring the right information into our homes and to grocery stores in a responsible way."
The legislation (S. 764), would stop states from issuing their own mandatory labeling laws and instead require food manufacturers to use one of three different labels - plain language, or a QR code, or for small businesses, simply a phone number for more information - to inform consumers about GMOs in products. Critics complain that there are no stated penalties for companies that don't comply with the law, and that the bill's definitions of GMOs will allow some ingredients to escape labeling requirements.
The bill now has to pass the House of Representatives, which is soon to go on summer recess.