Senators Prepare for Food Fight in Face of GMO Labeling Bill, Big Business Interests

Sen. Bernie Sanders has vowed to do everything in his power to stop the ‘sham’ bill, to the delight of activists everywhere
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Pixlr / Gage Skidmore / CC BY-SA 2.0

The populist senator has vowed to take on big agriculture interests.

We recently reported on the pending GMO labeling bill that is currently being batted around the Senate. If you’re too lazy to follow that link, or you haven’t been following the story, here’s the elevator pitch-length version: The ranking Republican and Democrat in the Senate Agriculture Committee have introduced a bill that would force companies to label GMO products as such. The bill has the blessing and support of the major lobbying groups in both the agriculture and grocery sectors.

Now, Bernie Sanders and his fellow senator from Vermont Patrick Leahy will champion those smaller players in the industry who have called the bill a sham, vowing to put a hold on the legislation. That hold means that the bill will not come up for debate unless its advocates can muster 60 votes to bring the bill to the floor.

The federal legislation reeks of backroom compromise. It comes directly on the heels of a GMO labeling law passed in Vermont, which would have significantly stricter regulations for what needs to be labeled and how it should be labeled. Some have said that the quickly introduced bill is an attempt to undercut such legislation and save big business. To wit, opponents note that the bill was not subject to a single hearing or testimony and damn it as “the result of a non-transparent ‘bargaining’ between two senators and industry interest groups.”

Sanders certainly thinks so. He notes about the Vermont bill, "This is a triumph for ordinary Americans over the powerful interests of Monsanto and other multi-national food industry corporations. We cannot allow Vermont’s law to be overturned by bad federal legislation that has just been announced."

Sanders is not alone. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also condemned the legislation in its technical comments. The FDA crucially states that it “may be difficult” for any GMO food to qualify for labeling because of the various exemptions and wonkily worded rules. In addition, the presence of an electric barcode serving as a “label” is discriminatory against low income, rural, and elderly populations.

If you love food, you’re probably against GMOs. If you feel as strongly as some do that this bill—slated to be introduced next week—is a total sham and a get-out-of-jail-free card for big agriculture, contact your senator and urge them not to help “Monsanto’s dream bill.”

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