The Senate last year could not come to even vote on a bill passed in the House that would deal with biotech food labeling. The food industry and labeling activists will look for common ground at a session convened by USDA Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, who earlier this week said the meeting “is going to take place this week.” The session could be held today, some observers note. While not convinced the upcoming session will find common ground on the topic, Vilsack said, “We’re gonna try.”
“We’re going to explore that [common ground]. I can’t tell you whether there is,” Vilsack noted in remarks about the upcoming meeting. Vilsack said he will tell leaders of the House and Senate Agriculture committees about the outcome of the talks. “If there is going to be any activity relative to the Vermont law, obviously, it is going to have to be made through members of Congress.”
Vilsack late last year said he was “going to challenge (stakeholders) to get this thing fixed. I would like to avoid making food more expensive,” The former Iowa governor said he is concerned about “chaos in the market” if more states implement labeling laws with differing provisions. “That will cost the industry a substantial amount of money, hundreds of millions of dollars, if not more, and it will ultimately end up costing the consumer” through higher prices, Vilsack said.
Vilsack addressed the issue at the recent American Farm Bureau Federation convention in Florida, saying, “There needs to be some entity that basically says, ‘This is an important issue, but let’s seek to find common ground.’” Vilsack will bring together food companies and others with positions on this issue to “determine whether or not common ground can potentially be established,” Vilsack said.
With Vermont’s biotech labeling law set to go into effect July 1, that could open up potential for many more jurisdictions to pass their own labeling plans, a situation which Vilsack said could create marketing chaos for food companies.