Just a week before a Vermont law kicks in requiring labels on food containing genetically modified ingredients, U.S. Senate agriculture leaders announced a deal Thursday that takes the power out of states' hands — and sets a mandatory national system for GM disclosures on food products.
Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kansas, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry, unveiled the plan that had been negotiated for weeks with U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Michigan.
Senate Democrats from farm country called it a win for consumers and families, while Roberts said it would end "denigrating biotechnology and causing confusion in the marketplace" brought on by Vermont's state law.
But it was clearly an uneasy compromise, with critics of the plan making for strange bedfellows on opposite ends of the political spectrum. Both Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Democrat who supports his state's mandatory law, and the American Farm Bureau Federation, which wants a voluntary GMO labeling standard, announced their opposition to the Roberts-Stabenow deal.
Under the plan, food companies would be required to disclose which products contain genetically modified ingredients. But companies would have a range of options in just how they make that disclosure: They could place text on food packaging, provide a QR (Quick Response) code, or direct consumers to a phone number or a website with more information.