TRUE GMO Labeling Lights Go Out in the Senate – Monsanto’s Money Wins A Huge Round with More Money and Delays – – 63 Yes/30No
STAY TUNED FOR WHAT’S NEXT TO PROTECT OUR FAMILIES It is a rare bill that is opposed by Senators, Boxer, Sanders, Paul and the Heritage Foundation, but this GMO Labeling bill is one. Conservatives do not typically like federal mandates (why Senator Paul opposes) or pre-emption of states’ rights. It is also unusual for conservative republicans to ignore the Heritage Foundation’s opinion especially since one of their own, former SC Senator Jim DeMint now heads the organization. That is exactly what happened with this bill because Monsanto and the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other major corporate players hammered home that message and warned that the cost of groceries would increase dramatically to comply with a ‘patchwork’ of laws across the country.
The Senate determined to clear the GMO Labeling bill off their plate before they left Washington this week, held their vote after 10:20 pm. From 9:30 am until the vote was called at 10:20 pm, the Senate floor fluctuated between times of silence and impassioned and informative speeches by Senator Merkley, Senator Murkowski, Senator Durbin and others. Sen. Merkley did a great job of pointing out how the Monsanto corn, soy, and sugar beets when developed into high fructose corn syrup, soy bean oil, and sugar would be exempted from the mandatory labeling provision, something that undermines what Americans are expecting in any labeling requirement. He also pointed out that this is the first labeling law that has no penalty associated. Meaning that there is no reason any company should comply because there are no monetary or other typical penalties included.
Senator Tester, the only Senator to run an organic farm testified on Thursday that he had real concerns that the organic provision was not as good as people have portrayed it and that GMOs might make their way into organics. Senator Durbin pointed out the concerns about Monsanto’s herbicide and the health concerns discussed in the New England Journal of Medicine.
One of the other discussions that came out of the debate today was discussion of how our being a signatory with the World Trade Organization cost American consumers (and farmers) the ability to have country of origin included on the labeling of foods. In essence, we lost our sovereignty to an international court. The discussion went on to raise concerns about the affect the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement might have on these issues as well.
About 7 pm and then again at 9 pm there was an attempt to bring the debate to a close and hold the vote – to move on to debate the DOD-Zika appropriations bill. Both failed. There were a number of amendments submitted, including numerous ones by Senator Sanders of Vermont. However, the Majority Leader, Senator Mitch McConnell has blocked debate and votes on any of the amendments either Republican or Democratic.
Members want to finish up their votes so they can leave Washington. They have one week left in session in July then it is off to the conventions and campaign trail. Unless there is a national emergency that warrants their return, they will be out of session until September.
Just after 9:30 Senator Stabenow, the democratic champion of the compromise bill, dressed all in red, and speaking in very motherly tones, took to the floor to give her views, raising concerns about the costs of groceries would go if with 50 different labeling laws from 50 different states; expressing her view that the science supported the safety of GMOs and provided her perspective of the history of the GMO labeling legislation and need to act. When discussing the “Vermont Meat Loophole” that the compromise bill closes, she opted not to tell the public that states could not mandate labeling on meats, eggs and dairy because of an existing federal pre-emption. According to Senator Stabenow, USDA Organic symbol will also equal Non-GMO.
As an aside, according to Open Secrets, Sen. Stabenow in this same time frame became the top recipient for Farm Bureau donors and in the 2015-2016 cycle has received $1.3 million dollars from the agriculture business donors.
At 10 pm both the Majority Leader (Senator McConnell of Kentucky) and Minority Leader (Senator Reid of Nevada) took turns in what can best be described as political posturing on matters largely unrelated to GMO Labeling. At 10:15, Senator Merkley of Oregon came back to the floor to offer to attempt to have the offered amendments debated and voted on. The vote to move his suggestion forward was called at 10:20 and was defeated with Senator Tim Scott, who replaced Senator DeMint in South Carolina casting the 51st vote no.
At 10:45 the final vote was called on passage, requiring only a simple majority. Sadly, this bill passed by a wide margin 63-30. And at 11:01 the Senate moved on to the next bill.
There were some last minutes switches such as Senator Mikulski of Maryland switching to support Senator Stabenow and Senator Flake following the Heritage recommendation.
The House must pass the bill again, and is expected to do so immediately under a Uniform Consent or Suspension Calendar procedure (meaning there will be no actual debate). Then it will be off to the President for signing into law. He is traveling at present, so they will either sign by automated pen, or wait for his return.
The POP Campaign will continue working to preserve organic standards and insure that the regulations put forward by USDA related to this bill do no harm to the existing standards.