Senate Votes on Food Labeling Amendment

WASHINGTON, May 23 – The Senate today rejected by a vote of 71 to 27 an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to let states require labels on food or beverages made with genetically modified ingredients.

“An overwhelming majority of Americans favor GMO labeling but virtually all of the major biotech and food corporations in the country oppose it,” Sanders said. “Today’s vote is a step forward on an important issue that we are going to continue to work on. The people of Vermont and the people of America have a right to know what's in the food that they eat,” he added.

The Vermont House on May 10 voted 99-42 for legislation calling for labeling food products that contain genetically modified organisms. Opponents raised concerns that the state could face lawsuits claiming that food labeling must be left to federal regulators. Sanders’ proposal was designed to make it clear that states have the authority to require the labeling of foods produced using genetically modified organisms.

Co-sponsored by Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska) Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Sanders' amendment would have made clear that states have the authority to require the labeling of foods produced through genetic engineering.

In the United States, Sanders said, food labels already must list more than 3,000 ingredients ranging from high-fructose corn syrup to trans-fats. Unlike 49 countries around the world, including all the countries of the European Union, the United States does not require labels identifying genetically engineered ingredients.

The measure also would have required the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to report to Congress within two years on the percentage of food and beverages in the United States that contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Consumer organizations backing the Sanders amendment included the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, Rural Vermont, Center for Food Safety; Friends of the Earth, Earth Justice, Allergy Kids Foundation, Beyond Pesticides and others.