The U.S. Senate today refused to advance the anti-GMO labeling bill passed by its Agriculture Committee in February. Called the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know) by consumer groups, the bill would have nullified state laws requiring mandatory labeling of foods with genetically modified organisms. Vermont's labeling law, for instance, is scheduled to go into effect in July.

“Senators from both sides of the aisle balked at shutting down state efforts to address what consumers want—which is to know if their food is genetically engineered,” says Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports.

Senator Pat Roberts, Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee introduced this bill, which would have made GMO labeling voluntary. Today he said in a statement: "I have repeatedly put forward proposals to protect farmers, manufacturers, retailers, and consumers. I have been flexible and have compromised in order to address concerns about making information available to consumers. Simply put, if we are to have a solution, opponents of our bill must be willing to do the same.”

In early March, Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon introduced a separate bill that would require mandatory GMO labeling nationwide but give manufacturers several options for presenting that information. These include identifying GMO ingredients with an asterisk and providing an explanation at the bottom of the ingredient list or putting a statement at the end of the ingredient list stating the product was “produced with genetic engineering."

In response to today’s vote, Merkley said: “Today is a victory for American consumers. Nearly nine in 10 Americans support labeling of genetically modified foods. It would be a tragedy to deny Americans their fundamental right to know what is in their food.”

Today's Senate vote does not mean that the Roberts’ bill is dead.

“We expect the fight to continue after Senate comes back from a two-week recess,” says CU's Halloran. “And we won’t let up the pressure. Today’s vote makes it clear that meaningful, mandatory GMO labeling is the only option if consumers are to get the information they want and deserve.”