A Senate vote today ensured that any GMO labeling laws passed at the state level can remain in place and won't be supplanted by nationwide, voluntary guidelines for manufacturers to follow.
The legislation in question, an amendment to another bill sarcastically dubbed the "DARK Act" by critics, would have prohibited states from going ahead and making their own laws about GMO labeling. Proponents of the amendment said a "patchwork" of regulations would be an expensive headache for food manufacturers, who would just push the costs onto consumers. Opponents said since Congress won't act, states should be able to decide what their governments want to do about the current dearth of labeling, and implement rules as they see fit.
Critics of GMO foods were heartened by the result of today's vote, which split mostly along party lines (Democrats against the bill, Republicans for it), although there were some defectors on both sides. "Consumers have a right to know what they are eating,” Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives for Consumers Union, said in a statement. "Labeling that provides consumers with the information they want about whether their food is genetically engineered is the only answer."
Even in today's political climate, few things are more contentious than the issue of genetically modified food and whether or not consumers are helped or hurt by rules that require labeling it as such. A decision (a bipartisan one, no less!) by the Senate today ensured that, while the status quo for labeling remains unchanged, the debate will continue to go on.
One recent poll funded by consumer advocacy groups said 90% of Americans want GMO foods to be labeled, but opponents say GMO ingredients are safe and shouldn't be unfairly stigmatized by labels calling them out.