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Roberts releases biotech labeling bill, schedules markup

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., Friday released a discussion draft of his bill on the labeling of products with genetically modified ingredients.

The bill would forbid state labels and require the Agriculture Department to develop national voluntary labeling standards.

The markup is scheduled on Thursday at 10 a.m. in Room 328A of the Russell Senate Office Building.

Roberts told The Hagstrom Report earlier this week that the bill would be a “chairman’s mark” that will be subject to amendment.

“I support Chairman Roberts’ urgency to address this critical issue and remain committed to working with him to find a solution that provides consumers with access to information they desire and certainty for our food industry. There is still a lot of work to do to get to a bill that can get the broad bipartisan support needed to pass the U.S. Senate.” Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich.

Senate Agriculture Committee ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said in a statement that there is more work to be done on the bill.

“I support Chairman Roberts’ urgency to address this critical issue and remain committed to working with him to find a solution that provides consumers with access to information they desire and certainty for our food industry,” Stabenow said.

“There is still a lot of work to do to get to a bill that can get the broad bipartisan support needed to pass the U.S. Senate,” she said.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Coalition for a Safe, Affordable Food Supply, the Food Marketing Institute, the Snack Food Association, the American Soybean Association, the National Grain and Feed Association, the American Feed Industry Association and the International Dairy Foods Association all issued news releases praising Roberts for issuing the bill.

“The Vermont law requiring foods containing genetically modified ingredients to display on-package labels goes into effect on July 1,” said Leah Wilkinson, AFIA vice president of legislative, regulatory and state affairs.

“Although animal food is exempt from Vermont’s law, our industry supports a uniform, national labeling standard for products containing genetically modified ingredients,” she said.

“If Congress implements a national law requiring a uniformed standard like what is contained in this bill, the food industry, animal food industry, farmers and consumers will share equal protection from unnecessary costs and different state mandated labeling requirements.”

Colin O’Neil, agriculture policy director for the Environmental Working Group, said the bill “would rob Americans of their right to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown.”

“We continue to hope that thoughtful food companies like Campbell’s will work with consumer groups to craft a non-judgmental GMO disclosure to put on the back of food packaging,” O’Neil said. “Americans should have the same right as citizens of 64 other countries to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown.”

–The Hagstrom Report


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