What's in a Label?

A controversial GMO labeling bill was just stopped in the Senate

Amid the ongoing election chaos and today's Supreme Court nomination, the Senate decided not to move forward on a controversial food-labeling bill. The bill would have made labelling genetically modified food items voluntary and prevented states from mandating that labels be placed on products, a measure Vermont is moving toward.

While many chefs and food activists are pushing for a labeling law, this bill was not it.

"Today's vote marked an important milestone for the more than 90 percent of Americans who want GMOs to be labeled," Tom Colicchio, who has been heavily involved in the issue, said in a press release today. "I am hopeful that the Senate will now work to craft a bipartisan mandatory on-pack GMO labeling bill. . . ."

His sentiments are shared by Senator Jon Tester, a Democrat and organic farmer from Montana who told the New York Times prior to the vote, "Voluntary standards are no standards at all. . . . This is bad, bad, bad policy."

Food labeling has become a divisive issue for Democrats, Republicans and large food producers. Many opposed to labeling argue that requiring it would raise the cost of groceries for many American families. A study from the Corn Refiners Association says that number could reach as high as $1,000 a year per family: ". . . consumers will likely view the GMO labels as warnings, leading food companies to switch from GMO ingredients to more expensive non-GMO ingredients. Such costs would be passed on to consumers in the form of higher prices."

Meanwhile, Campbell's, the first major food company in the country to promise it will eliminate all GMO ingredients from its products by 2018, says it doesn't anticipate labeling to change its costs dramatically. The company is backing a separate bill by Senator Jeff Merkley, Democrat of Oregon, which would require labeling but give companies options of how to display this information and, significantly, does not require a label be placed on the front of the packaging.

The debate is far from over, so stay tuned.