A bill requiring the mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically modified products passed what had been a contentious battle in the U.S. Senate, raising the chances significantly that Congress will eventually pass a national labeling standard.
The bill would require all food manufacturers to use one of three different types of labels to inform consumers that they are purchasing genetically-modified food items, according to The New York Times.
One of the types of labels that can be used by manufacturers is a form of barcode that consumers can scan with their smartphones to find out if a product contains GMOs or not. The barcodes are meant to replace regular labels which show that the product was "produced with genetic engineering," which is currently required by state laws in Maine, Connecticut, Vermont and Alaska, The Hill reports.
Republican Sen. Pat Roberts of Kansas helped write the legislation after an earlier piece of legislation involving voluntarily labeling was defeated earlier in 2016, The New York Times reports.
"From my perspective, it’s not the best possible bill, but it’s the best bill possible under the difficult circumstances we find ourselves in today," Roberts said.
The bill was backed by agricultural groups, large food manufacturers and the biotech industry, who were hoping to head off the more stringent standards which have been enacted into law in places like Vermont.
Proponents of labeling were generally displeased with the decision and preferred the more stringent standards enacted in certain states. On July 6, members of the Organic Consumers Association threw $2,000 on the floor of the Senate during a procedural vote on the issue. Four people were arrested for the disturbance and have been charged with unlawfully demonstrating, The Hill reports.
Despite the disturbance, the bill passed the vote 65-32; it's expected to pass the Senate in a floor vote later in July, according to The New York Times.
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said that "if this bill becomes law, the industry wins what are essentially voluntary requirements under this G.M.O. labeling 'compromise.'"
A Monsanto's spokesperson said that the "overwhelming majority of food and agriculture is voicing support for this bill with the members of the U.S. Senate," The Hill reports.
Former Whole Foods executive Eric Schweizer said in a statement: “Surveys consistently show 80-90 percent support for clear, concise labeling, exactly what thousands of products are already doing to comply with Vermont. And consumers are voting with their dollars to make Organic and non-GMO the fastest growth trends in the food industry."