The Senate late on Monday agreed to consider an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) to the farm bill that would let states require clear labels on any food or beverage containing genetically engineered ingredients.
A vote on the amendment is expected later this week.
The Vermont Legislature earlier this year considered a bill that would have required labels on genetically engineered food products. Despite overwhelming support by the House Agriculture Committee, however, the measure was sidetracked after the chemical giant Monsanto threatened to sue the state.
The amendment in the U.S. Senate is cosponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). California voters will consider a proposition on this November's ballot to require labels on genetically altered food.
The Sanders-Boxer Amendment would make clear that states have the authority to require the labeling of foods produced through genetic engineering or derived from organisms that have been genetically engineered.
The measure also would require the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to report to Congress within two years on the percentage of food and beverages in the United States that contain genetically engineered ingredients.
"All over this country, people are becoming more conscious about the foods they are eating and the foods they are serving to their kids, and this is certainly true for genetically engineered foods," Sanders said. "I believe that when a mother goes to the store and purchases food for her child, she has the right to know what she is feeding her child."
In the United States, Sanders said, food labels already must list more than 3,000 ingredients ranging from high-fructose corn syrup to trans-fats. Unlike 49 countries around the world, however, foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients do not have to be labeled in the U.S.
The Sanders Amendment is about allowing states to honor the wishes of their residents and allowing consumers' to know what they're eating. "Monsanto and other major corporations should not get to decide this, the people and their elected representatives should," Sanders said.