Senate Passes National GMO Labeling Standard

If enacted, the bill would override Vermont’s labeling law.

The U.S. Senate paved the way for a national GMO labeling standard Thursday, passing a contentious bill that was welcomed by the food industry but denounced by labeling advocates who called for greater transparency.

Senator Debbie Stabenow, Democrat of Michigan, and Senator Pat Roberts, Republican of Kansas, sponsored the legislation.

“This bipartisan bill ensures that consumers and families throughout the United States will have access, for the first time ever, to information about their food through a mandatory, nationwide label for food products with GMOs,” Stabenow said in a statement.

Roberts sponsored an earlier bill, the so-called DARK Act, that would have prevented states from requiring any labels on GMO foods. The DARK Act was defeated in March

The Senate voted 63-30 in favor of the new bill, which gives food companies three options for labeling GMOs products: a symbol, a clearly written statement, or a QR code. 

Labeling advocates lobby for short, simple statements. 
The food industry favors symbols or QR codes. 

“The biggest problem with the Senate bill,” wrote the New York Times in an editorial Wednesday, “is that — instead of requiring a simple label, as the Vermont law does — it would allow food companies to put the information in electronic codes that consumers would have to scan with smartphones or at scanners installed by grocery stores. The only reason to do this would be to make the information less accessible to the public.”

If enacted, the legislation would override state laws, such as the one in Vermont that went into effect July 1. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., a supporter of the Vermont law, Tweeted his contempt for the new Senate bill.

Sanders also stated his position on the Senate floor before the vote. 

“When parents go to the store and purchase food, they have the right to know what is in the food their kids are going to be eating,” he said.

At the Co-op, we are pro-labeling. We are not anti-GMO. The vast majority of scientists say GMOs are safe. Still, consumers have the right to know what’s in their food. The more transparency the better. 

For an excellent, reasoned opinion piece on GMOs, read the post by Co-op Nutrition Specialist Hannah Brilling here.

The Senate bill now goes to the House of Representatives, where it is expected to pass. 

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Ken Davis

Ken Davis is the Co-op's senior copywriter. Email him at