House passes GMO bill — now what?
After the House voted for the GMO labeling bill July 14, and the White House said that President Barack Obama will sign the legislation, the debate over how the mandatory disclosure program will be structured moves to the rulemaking process at the Agriculture Department.
Critics of the bill, including the Environmental Working Group and Just Label It, have already said they intend to focus on rulemaking to make the disclosure as clear as possible and the coverage of products as broad as possible.
The bill gives the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service two years to develop the rule.
USDA’s general counsel has said that the bill immediately preempts state labeling laws like the one in Vermont, but it will be interesting to see if labeling advocates argue in court that preemption should begin only after the USDA rule is in effect.
It’s not clear how the industry will handle rulemaking. The Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, the industry group that includes the Grocery Manufacturers Association, major food companies and farm groups, prevailed in the debate after years of organizing and the expenditure of millions of dollars and decisions of some companies such as Campbell’s and Mars to begin labeling.
Asked today whether the coalition would continue to exist, Claire Parker, a spokeswoman for the coalition, told The Hagstrom Report that “no decisions have been made, but the coalition was really unprecedented and effective so we expect the group will build on the collaboration in some form as other issues of mutual interest arise.”
Farm and agribusiness groups today issued news releases praising the bill and urging Obama to sign it.
Food and Water Watch issued a release urging Obama to veto it, as did the Rev. Jesse Jackson. In a letter distributed by the Center for Food Safety, Jackson said the bill is discriminatory because lower income people do not have smartphones and cannot access information by scanning a package label, one of the options in the bill for manufacturers to provide GMO information.
But the White House said in a statement that the president “will sign the bill.”
Earlier the White House had said he would sign it as long as the Senate version was not changed.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., each issued news releases today touting the fact that the House had passed their bill.
House members including House Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas, and ranking member Collin Peterson, D-Minn., have both said they still preferred the voluntary approach in the bill that Rep Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., introduced and pushed through the House.
The House vote was 307 to 117.
–The Hagstrom Report