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Senate Passes GMO Labeling Bill With Heavy GOP Support

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Craig Boudreau Vice Reporter
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The Senate passed a bill Wednesday that would mandate foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) be labelled.

The bill, part of The Agricultural Marketing Act of 1946 — otherwise known as the Stabenow-Roberts GMO bill — passed by a 65-32 margin, with 47 of those “yes” votes coming from Republicans. The 65 votes means the bill can withstand filibuster.

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) attempted to appeal to both sides of the debate, noting the world scientific community has long-since deemed GMOs safe for consumption.

“I worked to ensure that any agreement would recognize the scientific consensus that biotechnology is safe,” Stabenow said in a statement later published on grist.com, giving a nod to those who accept the science. “While also making sure consumers have the right to know what is in their food,” likewise giving a nod to those skeptical of GMOs.

The bill is a compromise for Senate Democrats and Republicans. The labels wouldn’t need to outright say the product contains GMOs, rather they agreed on a QR code that consumers can scan with their smartphones for the information.

The bill also would do away with state laws regarding GMO labeling. Vermont, which recently enacted the first-in-the-nation GMO labeling law, would see its new law banned outright if the Senate bill passes into law — upsetting Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Some food companies were not as keen on Vermont’s mandatory GMO labelling law. Vermont-based Blue Valley Gourmet was one such company.

“Sourcing new ingredients is so time-consuming,” Blue Valley Gourmet founder Christine Sawyer told The Wall Street Journal in March. “Rather than add GMO labels or search for alternative ingredients, I will probably just discontinue those flavors.”

There is also the issue of price. Famed Vermont ice cream company Ben and Jerry’s recently removed GMOs from its frozen treat and noted it resulted in an 11 percent price increase, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The Corn Refiners Association (CRA) did an analysis and found labelling “could impact over 300 million Americans, far beyond the population of Vermont and could cost consumers as much as $81.9 billion annually or approximately $1,050 per American family.”

The CRA report also noted that “Costs incurred by American food manufacturers to comply with Vermont’s GMO labeling mandate could lead to an increase of nearly 2 percent (1.76 percent) in average food prices nationwide in the first year.”

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