Despite the best efforts of Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS), the Senate failed to invoke cloture on the Biotechnology Labeling Solutions Bill in a 48-49 vote today, blocking advancement of the legislation that would create a voluntary federal standard for labeling foods with genetically modified ingredients.
Roberts expressed his disappointment at the inability to come to agreement on a solution to what may become a patchwork of state and local labeling laws. “Simply put, if we are to have a solution, opponents of our bill must be willing to do the same,” he said. “Without their own solution, opponents of this bill must favor the status quo. We cannot stand on the sidelines and risk increasing costs for consumers and further uncertainty in the marketplace for farmers and manufacturers.”
Agriculture Committee Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) stated her opposition to the Roberts bill this week, but admits that something needs to be done. “Unfortunately, the Roberts proposal is nothing more than the status quo for consumers who want information about the food they are purchasing,” Stabenow said. “I believe that if the federal government is going to take away states rights, we have the obligation to create a national system of disclosure that provides information to consumers in an easily accessible way.
Hundreds of agricultural organizations supported the Roberts bill and are disappointed in the outcome. “Despite the outcome today, this issue and the need to resolve it will not go away,” said National Council of Farmer Cooperatives president Chuck Conner. “We remain committed to finding a path forward on this issue when Congress returns after Easter recess.”
American Farm Bureau Federation president Zippy Duvall called the Senate vote “inexcusable” and said they will keep fighting. “To say we are angry with those senators who abandoned farmers and ranchers and turned their backs on rural America on this vote is an understatement,” said Duvall. Their votes opposing this measure ignored science, threw our nation’s food system into disarray and undermined the public’s understanding of the many benefits of biotechnology in feeding a growing and hungry population.”
“We urge the Senate to stand with farmers and consumers, not political activists,” added National Corn Growers Association president Chip Bowling. “We must continue working to solve this critical issue.”