Roberts cautions Vilsack on GMO labeling development

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack testified Wednesday at a Senate Ag Committee hearing.

Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack testified Wednesday at a Senate Ag Committee hearing.

As the USDA works to implement the GMO labeling law, Senate Agriculture Committee chair Pat Roberts cautions the agency to stay within the limits of what Congress intended.

During a committee hearing Wednesday, Roberts asked Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack about a proposed USDA study on whether consumers will actually use electronic or digital devices when making food purchasing decisions. Roberts said that question goes beyond the scope of the GMO labeling law.

“We cannot go beyond the scope of the law and expect to retain support for this bipartisan agreement—and it was a very hard fought, bipartisan agreement,” Roberts said

Vilsack disagreed with Roberts’ assessment. He said the study will provide valuable information as USDA develops the framework for GMO labeling.

“Number one, to reduce the litigation risk of any implementation. There’s always that risk and we want to make sure we don’t cause further delay,” Vilsack said. “Secondly, we also have international regulations and responsibilities that we have to be cognizant of.”

A separate proposed study would identify potential nationwide technological challenges that might impact consumers’ ability to read electronic or digital links on food packages.

The option of providing biotech information via an electronic label was an important element in convincing food and agriculture groups to support the GMO labeling bill.

AUDIO: Senator Pat Roberts and Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack discuss implementation of the GMO labeling law

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