House appropriators are open to using the government-wide fiscal 2016 spending bill to block Vermont and other states from requiring the labeling of foods with biotech ingredients. The top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, Debbie Stabenow, has been leading discussions on the Senate legislation that would preempt state labeling laws and instead require genetically engineered ingredients to be disclosed instead through smartphone codes and on the Web.
Dropping the measure into the omnibus spending bill would make it almost impossible for biotech critics to stop.
“We would certainly be open to looking at” including the labeling legislation, Rep. Robert Aderholt, chairman of the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, said after a private briefing for House members on the spending bill.
Stabenow has told Agri-Pulse that the GMO labeling issue is one of several, including child nutrition reauthorization, that could be addressed in the omnibus spending bill that needs to be enacted by Dec. 11.
Food companies are eager to see the biotech issue addressed well before the first state labeling requirement takes effect in Vermont next July.
The House passed a bill this summer, 275-150, to preempt state labeling laws, but it didn’t include the electronic disclosure requirement that Stabenow has been pursuing. She indicated that the Agriculture Department has been assisting with developing a compromise plan.
“Obviously we’ve got to get something done,” said House Agriculture Chairman Mike Conaway, who attended the appropriations briefing.
“If you’ve got a label on a can that’s not going to get sold until July … you can’t wait until June 30 to figure out that label has to look like,” he said. “You have to start that lead time now. It’s having an impact.”
Rep. Dan Newhouse, a Washington Republican who also attending the briefing, said he pushed for inclusion of the GMO labeling measure.