Senate Ag Committee offers compromise on GMO labeling bill

Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., late last week announced they reached a compromise on legislation for a mandatory national labeling scheme for products containing genetically modified organisms (GMO). The measure would require food companies to label products that contain GMO ingredients, giving them three options for making that disclosure: on-package labels, a USDA-developed symbol or a QR (Quick Response) code consumers could scan with smart phones, providing a phone number or website for more information.

The National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) supports the Roberts-Stabenow bill, as does the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, a group of more than 1,065 food and farm companies and organizations, because it would pre-empt a patchwork of state labeling laws, including Vermont's, which takes effect today. The Agriculture Committee may consider the legislation when the Senate returns from its Independence Day recess.

If the bill passes the Senate, it still would need to be approved by the House, which last July passed a bill establishing a voluntary labeling system. In a related matter, 107 Nobel Laureates have asked Greenpeace to end its opposition to GMO foods. In an open letter to the advocacy group, the United Nations and "Governments around the world," the Nobel Prize winners specifically urged the environmental group to drop its opposition to Golden Rice, a genetically engineered crop designed to fight Vitamin A deficiency.

They pointed out that there have been no negative human or animal health effects from consuming any GMO foods and that GMO crops are less damaging to the environment and "a boon to global biodiversity."

The laureates, mostly chemists and physicists, concluded their letter by asking: "How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a 'crime against humanity'?" (Click here to read the letter.)