The National Milk Producers Federation thanked Senate members for approving a cloture motion today that will set up a final vote on legislation that would create a federal, uniform labeling system for foods produced using biotechnology. The final vote is expected to take place by Friday afternoon.
The legislation, negotiated by Sens. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) of the Senate Agriculture Committee, would preempt Vermont's state GMO labeling law that took effect July 1, and instead establish national guidelines for how companies disclose the presence of ingredients and foods made with biotechnology. Cloture was invoked Wednesday afternoon with the bipartisan support of 65 Senators. Members now have 30 hours to debate the measure before it moves to a final vote.
"We are now a major step closer to ending the confusion that has already arisen because of the Vermont law," said NMPF President and CEO Jim Mulhern. "With final passage by the Senate, approval by the House, and with President Obama's signature, we can establish a national framework to provide information to consumers without stigmatizing agricultural biotechnology and complicating how companies market foods in interstate commerce."
NMPF expressed its appreciation for the commitment that Sens. Roberts and Stabenow gave to reach a solution on this issue that reaffirms the federal government's role in food labeling policy.
Mulhern noted that nearly 3,000 products have been pulled from Vermont supermarket shelves in the past week, as a result of companies making decisions not to sell certain products there, now that the state's own mandatory labeling law is in effect.
"The understandable decision by companies to avoid the Vermont market because of the new state law hurts consumers and is evidence that an issue of this importance must be resolved at the federal level, not on a state-by-state basis," Mulhern said.
NMPF continues to urge its members to contact their Senators to encourage passage of the Robert-Stabenow agreement, using the organization's online Dairy GREAT website email tool. The organization recently joined nearly 1,100 food companies in signing a letter pushing for the bill's passage.
Food ingredients made using biotechnology have been proven safe by more than 2,000 studies from leading scientific bodies worldwide. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have all reaffirmed their long-standing recognition of the safety of the technology.