© 2024 Iowa Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.S. Senate Shows Signs of Movement on GMO Labeling

IPR file photo by Amy Mayer
The current "non-GMO" label is a third-party verification system. A House bill would create a government program for that, and prohibit states from requiring that GMO ingredients be labeled.

Vermont's first-in-the-nation labeling law for foods containing genetically modified ingredients takes effect July 1, and there now appears to be some movement in the U.S. Senate to pass a law to prevent it.

Some food companies have already started to identify products that contain GMOs, in readiness for the Vermont law, but opponents of the requirement continue to press for a Congressional solution that would prevent every state from making its own rules.

The U.S. House passed a measure last summer that prohibits state laws and makes voluntarily labeling of non-GMO foods a government program. There is currently a third-party verification system for that.

Consumers consistently say they want to know whether their foods contain GMOs. But food companies argue modified ingredients are safe and that expensive labeling would only create confusion or fear.

So far, the U.S. Senate has failed to find a compromise Democrats and Republicans can both support, even after meetings hosted by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack attempted to bring the two sides together.

But on Tuesday, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said there's fresh momentum from Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow and Kansas Republican Pat Roberts to find common ground.

"Stabenow is trying to come up with something," Grassley said, "and Roberts is giving it great consideration."

As recently as two weeks ago, Grassley had little hope any compromise would come from the Senate.

"You can obviously be more optimistic when you know people are talking and trying to negotiate than when they aren't," Grassley said.

He declined to offer any details about what the new proposal contains.

Campbell soups and Frito-Lay chips are among the foods that already sport mentions of their GE ingredients, in anticipation of Vermont’s law.

Amy Mayer is a reporter based in Ames