Senate votes 14-6 to advance Roberts biotech labeling bill

The Senate Agriculture Committee has voted 14 to 6 to advance the bill written by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., to ban state labeling of foods with genetically modified ingredients and to set up a national voluntary labeling system.

Democratic Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota joined with the Republicans in suppporting the measure.

Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said she could not support anything but a mandatory labeling measure, and this bill’s labeling program is not mandatory.

In an impassioned statement, Klobuchar said she was was voting to advance the bill because a patchwork of state laws will not work and that she believes in science.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., spoke against the bill, saying it would stop Vermont’s labeling law from going into effect. But Klobuchar noted that the Vermont law exempts dairy, the state’s major agricultural product, but Connecticut and Maine do not.

Congress is under pressure to act on biotech labeling before the Vermont law goes into effect on July 1.

Roberts thanked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for his help on the bill so far. Roberts also said he believes that President Barack Obama would sign the bill.

–The Hagstrom Report