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Ranking Member Stabenow: Consumers Demand More Than Voluntary Program

Stabenow Votes Against Chairman’s Mark, Pledges to Work Toward National System of Mandatory Disclosure

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow, Ranking Member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, released the following opening statement – as prepared for delivery – following today’s Committee markup of Chairman Roberts’ biotechnology labeling bill.

Stabenow’s statement, as prepared for delivery, follows.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

As we know, this Committee has a proud tradition of working across party lines to get things done.

We passed a Farm Bill in 2014 when everyone said it couldn’t be done. Just last month, we unanimously passed an important child nutrition bill.

 And on the issue before us today, we do have areas of bipartisan agreement.

We agree that science has shown us that biotechnology is safe.

We agree that biotechnology is an important tool for farmers and producers – particularly as we tackle the challenges of climate change and the need to feed a growing population around the world.

And we agree that a 50-state patchwork of labeling laws is not a workable, long-term solution.

But I also recognize that a growing number of American consumers want to know more about the food they eat. 

That's one reason why I focused on strengthening our organic programs and local food systems in the last Farm Bill.

My office is not unique in receiving thousands of letters and calls from citizens across Michigan – and the country – who are demanding more access to information about their food to help them make informed choices at the grocery store.

That’s why – for the last several months – we have been working to find a bipartisan path forward that would address concerns from all sides of this debate.

As I have said from the beginning of this process: for a solution, which includes a 50 state preemption, to receive the broad support necessary to pass the Senate; it must contain a pathway to a national system of mandatory disclosure that provides consumers the information they need and want to make informed choices.

Mr. Chairman, I share your urgency to get this done.

However, the bill before us today does not meet that important requirement.

A voluntary program is not enough to meet consumer demand. That is why I cannot support it. 

While I am disappointed that we were unable to reach a bipartisan compromise before this markup today, I realize this is just the first step in the Senate process. 

So, as always, Mr. Chairman, I remain committed to keep working with you and members of our Committee to find a workable, bipartisan solution to this issue so that all of the legitimate issues are addressed in a fair and reasonable way.

Thank you.