Seeking a Deal on GMO Labels

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By Jerry Hagstrom
DTN Political Correspondent
and
Chris Clayton
DTN Ag Policy Editor

OMAHA (DTN) -- Amid reports that Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and ranking member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., are meeting to discuss a compromise on the labeling of genetically modified foods, the Coalition for a Safe Affordable Food Supply and the National Association of State Departments of Agriculture on Tuesday called on lawmakers to make a deal so that the Vermont labeling law does not go into effect on July 1.

Roberts said at a Bloomberg Government event that the agreement is down to three sticking points, but did not elaborate, Politico reported. Roberts said he and Stabenow will try to "settle our differences" in these meetings. "We have to get it fixed," though most major companies are prepared to abide by the Vermont law that takes effect July 1 if a solution is not reached, Roberts noted.

House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, R-Texas, said at the Bloomberg event that he is "frustrated" with Stabenow's lack of movement. Conaway is sticking with the House position on the topic until Stabenow puts something on paper he can negotiate with. Even with a Senate compromise, Conaway said that he stands by his voluntary-only labeling law, passed in the House in 2015.

"The House has a bill, and we'd be perfectly fine if the Senate passed it as is and sent it to the president," Conaway said.

Pamela Bailey, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, and Chuck Conner, president and CEO of the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives, who co-chair the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, stressed in a news release Tuesday that it is "imperative" that Roberts and Stabenow "reach an agreement this week on the biotech labeling bill. There is simply no more time for a compromise to be reached. The issues are well defined, have been fully debated, and now it is time to get in a room and reach a final deal. While defining the need for a solution, the coalition's plea offered no suggestions for a path forward.

"We are confident that a Roberts-Stabenow compromise will get 60 votes in the Senate and will be passed by the House before the Vermont law goes into effect on July 1," Bailey said. "However, for this to happen, a Roberts-Stabenow compromise must be reached this week. We and the 800 other Coalition member organizations nationwide stand ready to support the compromise once announced and work for rapid passage. The clock is ticking louder by the day, and the stakes couldn't be higher for the agriculture and food industry."

"We must find a pathway to allow science and innovation to feed the world while providing information about these technologies to consumers," said Greg Ibach, Nebraska director of agriculture and president of the National Association of State Directors of Agriculture.

(CC/AG)