The bill, brought by Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kansas), called for voluntary labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in products and had found favor with several feed producer and grower organizations, including the American Feed Industry Association (AFIA), National Grain and Feed Association (NGFA), American Soybean Association (ASA) and National Corn Growers Association (NCGA).
“We're certainly disappointed in the vote today and in this setback, but that's how we look at it: as a temporary detour in a larger effort,” said Patrick Delaney, communications director with the ASA.
The conversation is an important one to continue, he told FeedNavigator. “We think that we're close to a solution that helps the industry stay innovative while providing consumers the information they're looking for,” he added.
The bill had previously passed out of the Senate’s Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, but it failed to gain the 60-vote majority needed to continue in the Senate.
Senate member Debbie Stabenow, ranking member of the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, was among those against the bill, saying she wanted to see legislation that provided consumers more information about the inclusion of biotech ingredients in a product.
“To be clear, I support the use of biotechnology in agriculture,” she said in a release. “Biotechnology is solving challenges faced by our farmers and our world. And it is important that any federal policy reflect that reality.”
Responses and support
Prior to the Senate vote on the bill, several feed groups had expressed their support for the legislation and a desire to see it move forward.
The bill offered a federal solution to the potential for an “unworkable” state-by-state set of labeling rules, said officials with the AFIA.
The group had urged the Senate to pass the bill because it would protect interstate commerce while providing consumers information, they said.
"AFIA supports a uniform, science-based federal labeling standard, unlike the Vermont law that requires food for humans containing genetically engineered ingredients to display front-of-package labels," said Joel Newman, AFIA president and CEO.
The NGFA also had called for passage of the bill prior to the July 1 deadline created by a mandatory, state-level GMO labeling law in Vermont, officials said. “Congressional action is needed to avert major supply chain disruptions and inefficiencies in production, storage, transportation, manufacturing and distribution of food and feed that would translate into significant cost increases for consumers,” they added.
ASA members are going to continue to push for the discussion to continue, said Delaney.
“Once Congress returns from the Easter break, we'll get back to work with leaders in the Senate and continue on the path to a compromise,” he said. “We can't praise Chairman Roberts enough for his work on this issue, as well as our Democratic supporters for their help in the effort as well, and we hope to continue our partnership with them on this critical matter moving forward.”
The NCGA also expressed disappointment with the failure to move the bill forward and said they will continue to work for a solution, said group officials.
“The impending implementation of a patchwork of state labeling legislation will soon harm both the American families who grow food and those who buy it,” said Chip Bowling, NCGA president. “Given the overwhelming scientific evidence of the safety of this technology and the vital role it will play in meeting the growing need to feed a growing global population, on-pack labeling that would create confusion and stigmatize biotechnology serves only a small activist population at the expense of consumers.”
Robert’s bill would have preempted state-level bills and called for voluntary labeling of products containing GMO or bio-engineered ingredients.
It offered a definition for bio-engineered products and set a timeline to establish a voluntary food labeling standard.
It also specified that the Secretary of Agriculture would provide science-based information through education or outreach to discuss elements of using biotech crops or products.