GMO FIGHT LOOMING AT LAST MINUTE
With help from Catherine Boudreau, Ian Kullgren, Jason Huffman and Kathryn Wolfe
STABENOW: GMO LABELING DEAL ‘CLOSE’: Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said late Monday that she and Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) are “narrowing the issues” surrounding GMO labeling legislation and are “close” to reaching a deal — but have not shared a draft in the Senate.
She said they have been meeting constantly. But questions remain over one of the most fundamental issues: whether on-pack labels should be part of a mandatory disclosure system. Come July 1 on-pack labeling will become the de facto national standard, as food and beverage manufacturers will be forced to comply with Vermont’s law or potentially face a $1,000 fine per day, per product.
Hope for a voluntary labeling standard faded in March when legislation offered by Roberts failed to secure the 60 votes needed to move forward. Shortly thereafter, companies like Mars and General Mills announced they would start labeling products containing GMOs, while PepsiCo appeared to quietly make the move in April. The pro-labeling camp is keeping track. Just Label It, a coalition of consumer advocacy, environmental and organic industry groups, has created a Facebook page featuring photos of products featuring disclosures about genetically engineered ingredients. The Grocery Manufacturers Association and biotech and agricultural industry groups worry that these products will be unfairly stigmatized by anti-GMO activists and companies will reformulate away from biotech ingredients.
Tick tock: There are 10 calendar days left before Vermont’s law takes effect, but Stabenow and Roberts really only have four legislative days left, considering the House won’t be in session all next week, the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food warned. This all feels a bit like the movie “Groundhog Day,” right?