Nebraska's US senators split this week over legislation requiring labeling for foods with genetically modified ingredients, with both Republican lawmakers saying they were looking out for the interests of home state farmers.
Following Senate passage of a bill to set a national standard for the labeling of foods containing GMO ingredients, American Soybean Association (ASA) President Richard Wilkins, a soybean farmer from Greenwood, Del., congratulated the Senate and called on the House to take up and quickly pass the measure.
With final approval in the Senate, the federal GMO labeling bill now moves to the House of Representatives for consideration, where it is expected to pass. President Obama's signature will be all that remains to put the new law into action. In a tweet, he compared the GMO label on a package of peanut M&Ms that says "partially produced with genetic engineering" with a QR code on a Coca-Cola can. Deb Fischer voted for the legislation, saying it's a compromise that will reduce costs and provide certainty for farmers, food companies and consumers in that it offers a solution to avoid a patchwork of state laws.
The new federal standard, if approved, would pre-empt Vermont's law.
"When parents go to the store and purchase food, they have the right to know what is in the food their kids are going to be eating", Sanders said on the floor of the Senate ahead of the vote.
She said Nebraskans understand that their agricultural products are sold beyond the state's borders and that it's important to have a uniform set of rules. But the GMO labeling debate is far from over.
As Vermont's July 1 effective date approached, major food companies, including General Mills and Campbell Soup, announced their own GMO labels.
Even if Vermont's labeling law ends up being short lived, the tiny state will have a long-lasting influence on the food industry and its attitudes toward GMO labeling, which, until this year, the industry had staunchly opposed. Any changes in the bill would require the legislation to be sent back to the Senate. The legislation would establish national guidelines for how companies disclose the presence of ingredients and foods made with biotechnology. A flawless bill that can't pass won't accomplish anything for the nation's farmers or the nation's consumers. If the first ingredient is beef, then it will also be exempt from this law. "We give three choices on food that contain GMOs, not voluntary, but a mandatory labeling system". Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, who helped write the legislation.