On Wednesday, a scene that passed for exciting—at least by Capitol Hill standards—unfolded when demonstrators in the Senate gallery showered $2,000 upon lawmakers in the chamber below.
Rather than a taxpayer-initiated raise, the stunt was in protest of a federal bill that would force food manufacturers to label products that contain genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) according to terms that some say are too accommodating of big food companies and farm-industry groups. Despite the interjection of the “Monsanto money,” the bill passed in the Senate late on Thursday evening. The bill, which still needs the approval of the House and the president, is actually meant to preempt a tougher GMO-labeling law that went into effect last week in Vermont and is the latest flashpoint in a vicious, years-long battle over GMOs. (An overwhelming scientific consensus suggests that the vilification of GMOs is unjustified.)
While the regulatory uncertainty persists, food manufacturers have been left with the choice of acquiescing to GMOs’ stigma by getting out ahead of potentially impending labeling requirements (which consumers want) or withdrawing from markets that require the labels. Should a national GMO-labeling regulation fail to materialize, food companies will have until 2017 to comply with the new labeling standards in Vermont. Some manufacturers like General Mills, Campbell’s, Frito-Lay, Kellogg, and ConAgra have already added disclosures in a variety of formats: in small lettering beneath the ingredients list, discretely placed at the bottom of food labels, or subtly stamped alongside best-by dates.