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Next Five Days Could Determine the Fate of GMO Labeling in the U.S.

For all their posturing, for all their proclamations that Vermont’s law must be preempted or “chaos will ensue,” key Senate proponents of a federal bill to preempt Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling bill have yet to produce a viable version of the bill, much less pass such a bill.

Now, they’re down to five days. The anti-labeling brigade has just five working days (incluing today, June 16, 2016) to preempt Vermont’s law before it takes effect July 1.

Five working days, before the House adjourns for the July 4 holiday recess on June 24. (Any bill passed by the Senate would have to go back to the House, before it goes to a full vote in Congress, so it doesn’t matter if the Senate is in session for 15 days. Without the House, the Senate’s hands are tied). 

That leaves five days to produce a new Senate version of the bill, to secure enough votes to pass the new version in the Senate, to reconcile the Senate version with the House version (passed in July 2015), and to hold a full vote by both House and Senate.

Five days. And counting.

That means we have five days to defend Vermont’s labeling law. We need to make a record-breaking number of phone calls in the next 5 days. 

TAKE ACTION: Please scroll down to see what you can do in the next five days to stop Congress from stomping out Vermont’s GMO labeling law.

There’s reason to be optimistic, thanks to a number of factors working in our favor.

First, some companies that previously opposed labeling are already printing “produced with genetic engineering” on their packaging. Not just in Vermont, but nationally—and the sky has not fallen.  

Second, Sens. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), key architects of the Senate version that failed in March, have been struggling since then to find a compromise that will get them the 60 votes they need to preempt Vermont. Three months after the Senate sunk Roberts’ bill, they haven’t yet struck a deal. (See how your Senator voted on the DARK Act).

And then there’s the political climate, which is no more stable right now than the planet’s climate. It’s an election year, and a particularly volatile one at that. Politicians facing re-election are going to have a tough time explaining to voters why they sided with Monsanto, not the 90 percent of voters who want GMO labeling laws. They’ll have an equally tough time telling their agribusiness funders that they couldn’t get the job done—but at least maybe they’ll still have jobs if they side with voters, not Monsanto.

Of all the “compromises” put forth so far, the smartphone technology “solution” seemed to have the most traction, at least for a while. But a fancy high-tech substitute for labels makes for a sticky situation for those Congress members who represent largely rural areas. Allowing companies to use a QR code (readable only by a smartphone) to direct consumers to a corporate website to find out whether or not a product contains GMO ingredients clearly discriminates against consumers who live in rural areas where internet access is sketchy, at best.

And that’s something consumers (and voters) who live in rural areas need to remind their Congress members of—over and over—during the next 10 days. Especially as the latest Frankenfood—the GMO apple—will soon appear on grocery shelves. 

Optimism or no, we can’t afford to under estimate our opponents. So, here’s the plan—we need everyone on board. Eight more days. We can do this!

1. Hold on to the ‘no’ votes—what to do if you live in one of these states

Eight Republican Senators voted against Roberts’ preemption bill in March. If Roberts and Stabenow introduce a compromise bill, we need these eight Senators to stick with us. If your Senator is listed below, please call today. Say “thank you” for supporting consumer and states’ rights in March—please don’t change your vote if a compromise is proposed.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) (202)-224-6665
Sen. Daniel Sullivan (R-Alaska) (202) 224-3004
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (202) 224-2541
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (202) 224-4343
Sen. Susan M. Collins (R-Maine) (202) 224-2523
Sen. Angus S. King Jr.  (I-Maine) (202) 224-5344
Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) (202) 224-6244
Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) (202) 224-5444

2. Remind these lawmakers that you’re watching their votes—what to do if you live in one of these states

One Democrat, and several Republicans who are up for re-election are especially vulnerable right now. So now would be the time to tell these politicians that a vote against labeling will cost them your vote in the next election.

Michael Bennett (D-Colo.) - (202) 224-5852
Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) - (202) 224-2854
Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) - (202) 224-3324
Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) - (202) 224-5323
Rob Portman (R-Ohio) - (202) 224-3353
Richard Burr (R-N.C.) - (202) 224-3154
Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) - (202) 224-3744

3. Tell these lawmakers that rural consumers want labels, too—what to do no matter where you live

Four Senators we need on our side hail from states where more than 50 percent of the population lives in rural communities. Even if you don’t live in one of these four states, please call these Senators and tell them that they must reject any compromise involving smartphone technology and/or QR codes because those technologies are discriminatory.

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) (202) 224-2523
Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) (202) 224-2541
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) : 202-224-3744
Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) (202) 224-3324

4. More Senators who represent rural constituents—what to do if you live in one of these states

Sen. John Hoeven (R-N.D.) (202) 224-2551
Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) (202) 224-2321
Sen. James Lankford (R-Ok.) (202) 224-5754
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) (202) 224-4343
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.)  (202) 224-4822
Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.)  202-228-2186
Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) (202) 224-4814

We’ve come too far to let this victory slip away during the next 10 days. Please call your Senators today. And tomorrow. And the next day. 

Katherine Paul is associate director of the Organic Consumers Association

Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association