Senate Agriculture Committee approved the bill 14-6, sending it to the upper chamber's floor

Bad news – the Dark Act, which would forbid states from requiring GMO labelling, has won backing from the Senate Agriculture Committee.

However, Food Navigator reports that the bill “faces an uphill battle when it goes to the Senate floor for a vote”.

1. Senate panel advances bill blocking state GMO labeling rules
2. UPDATE: GMO labeling bill going to complete Senate, following 14-6 bipartisan committee vote

1. Senate panel advances bill blocking state GMO labeling rules

By Tim Devaney
The Hill, 1 March 2016

A Senate panel voted Tuesday to advance legislation that would block states from imposing labeling requirements for genetically modified foods.

The Senate Agriculture Committee approved the bill in a 14-6 vote, sending it to the upper chamber's floor. The House passed similar legislation last year.

"Now is not the time for Congress to make food more expensive for anyone,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), who sponsored the bill.

The bill comes amid a heated fight between consumer groups who want more information about so-called GMO foods and the food industry.

Supporters of the bill say that a patchwork of state rules will make it more costly for food companies to comply and that those costs will be passed on to consumers. They also say that additional labeling requirements are unnecessary for foods that have already been deemed safe by the government.

But Democrats who oppose the bill say consumers have a right to know what’s in the food they’re eating.

The GOP-backed bill would “move production methods into the shadows” and “give agriculture a black eye,” said Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.).

“The legislation undermines the public’s right to know,” he added.

The bill would replace state-by-state mandatory GMO labeling requirements with a voluntary national standard.

The committee’s top Democrat, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.) said it does not go far enough to protect consumers.

“It must contain a pathway to a national system of mandatory disclosures for consumers,” she said. “The bill before us today does not meet that important requirement. A voluntary program is not enough to meet consumer demand. That’s why I will not be voting for it."

2. UPDATE: GMO labeling bill going to complete Senate, following 14-6 bipartisan committee vote

By Carolyn Heneghan
FoodDive, February 29, 2016

UPDATE: The Senate Agriculture Committee passed the GMO labeling bill 14-6 in a bipartisan vote. The bill will now go to the complete Senate.

Dive Brief:

* The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled on Tuesday to markup the voluntary GMO labeling bill introduced by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) in February, following its postponement.
* Though it did give Roberts and the bill's supporters additional time to garner up more Democratic support, it still may not have been enough.
* Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) has expressed interest in reaching a compromise on the legislation that would appease both the sugar beet producers in her state and consumers. However, she doesn't believe the bill's voluntary labeling policy as it currently stands goes far enough, Heitkamp told Agri-Pulse.

Dive Insight:

Supporters of the bill tout higher costs for manufacturers regarding the logistics involved in distribution and creating different labels for individual state. Manufacturers may have to pass those costs on to consumers, which is another concern for legislators.

Opponents argue that Campbell, which backs mandatory GMO labeling, won't be raising prices for consumers when the company begins labeling GMO ingredients in its products over the next year and a half. Legislators also cite states' rights and consumers' right to know what is in their food as reasons that voluntary GMO labeling doesn't go far enough.

Compromise could come in the form of GMO information provided to consumers somewhere other than directly on the label, but that may still not be enough for Democratic legislators that are demanding labeling on the packaging.