U.S. Senate votes in favor of GMO labeling; GMO salmon affected

Published on
March 17, 2016

Consumer groups in favor of labeling on genetically modified organisms (GMO) foods praised this week’s Senate vote in the U.S. Senate against the Biotechnology Labeling Solutions Act.

On Wednesday, 16 March, the Senate voted against the legislation by a narrow margin, 49-48. The bill, which opponents dubbed the “Deny Americans the Right to Know,” or DARK Act, would have prevented Vermont and other states from labeling GMO foods, instead giving the federal government jurisdiction over GMO labeling.

As far as the effect of the bill’s failure on GMO salmon, proponents of labeling on AquaBounty’s GMO salmon, AquAdvantage, which was approved by the FDA last year, believe the Senate vote is a win.

“This [AquAdvantage] is a new species that will be introduced into our markets, homes, and quite possibly, contrary to what any Environmental Assessment claims, our ecosystems….I also well know the immense value of our fisheries and the potential for havoc that ‘Frankenfish’ could wreak upon wild, sustainable stocks,” Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-Ak.) said on the Senate floor before the vote. “It would be a mistake to allow genetically engineered salmon into our homes, mislabeled as salmon.”

Sen. Murkowski supported Alaska’s passage of a mandatory labeling on GMO foods last year, and did not want Alaska to lose the right to label those foods.

AquaBounty did not respond to SeafoodSource’s email requesting comment on the vote.

Support for the vote was echoed by many other consumer advocacy groups. “More than 90 percent of Americans want GMO labeling and this bill would have done nothing to satisfy the tidal wave of consumer demand for transparency evident in states across the U.S.,” said Lisa Archer, food and technology program director for Friends of the Earth.

However, the companion bill, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, passed in the House last year and the Senate’s narrow voting margin could signal a difficult road ahead for opponents of the legislation. The bill would set a federal standard for the voluntary labeling of foods with GMO ingredients, according to The Hill.

“The food industry that opposes mandatory GMO labeling has said they will continue to push the Senate to pass something that would preempt state laws,” Patty Lovera, assistant director of Food & Water Watch, told SeafoodSource.

If proponents continue to push for the bills that do not require mandatory labeling, it will “only accelerate consumer distrust of large food companies and their processed food, said Gary Ruskin, co-director of the advocacy group U.S. Right to Know.

Still, Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), sponsor of the failed Biotechnology Labeling Solutions Act, said that opponents of the bill have not provided a better solution.

“Opponents of this approach would not put forward a proposal for a vote. Why is that? Will their proposals pass the Senate or better yet, the House? In short, where is their solution?” Roberts said in a statement. “Without their own solution, opponents of this bill must favor the status quo.”

The standard set forth in the Biotechnology Labeling Solutions Act is a “responsible, enforceable, scientific and proactive approach to arm consumers with the information they want to make informed choices about what to put on the dinner table,” Roberts said. “My approach to labeling acknowledges what many American consumers forget: our food is abundant, affordable and safe. We must continue our reliance on science and technology to ensure our continued prosperity.”

Contributing Editor

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