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Senate Blocks Controversial GMO Labeling Bill

It would have left food manufacturers to decide whether or not to put GMO labels on their products

Benjamin Chan/Flickr

The internet exploded in rounds of applause today as word came down that the Senate blocked a controversial genetically modified organism labeling bill. Introduced last month by Republican Kansas Senator Pat Roberts, the Biotech Labeling Solutions Act — or as opponents quickly re-dubbed it, the DARK Act — would make GMO labeling for foods strictly voluntary, and prevent states from enacting their own legislature to mandate GMO labeling.

Although the bill, which passed the House last summer, was approved by the Senate Agricultural Committee last week, today it failed to obtain the 60 votes necessary to move forward. That means that come July 1, Vermont will be the first state to require mandatory GMO labeling for food. Per the Associated Press, Democrat Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy "[says] laws like Vermont's aren't aimed at altering food production methods, but are simply meant to provide consumers with information about what they're buying."

"Today’s vote marked an important milestone for the more than 90% of Americans who want GMOs to be labeled," said Tom Colicchio, the Top Chef judge and restaurateur who founded the nonprofit Food Policy Action. "I am hopeful that the Senate will now work to craft a bipartisan mandatory on-pack GMO labeling bill that doesn’t demonize science and gives consumers the information they demand." Last week, Colicchio lobbied Congress to put an end to the bill when he presented a petition signed by thousands of chefs from across the country

As Reuters notes, "Labeling advocates have criticized the bill as toothless because it leaves the decision to disclose GMO ingredients to the companies whose products contain them." A recent poll found that 89 percent of Americans are in favor of mandatory GMO labeling for all foods, but big food manufacturers have spent millions — sometimes secretly — in efforts to ensure they don't have to slap GMO labels on their products.