Except that most of these guns aren't loaded, including the big gun. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., introduced a farm bill provision, which was designed to protect states that require labeling for genetically engineered food or genetically modified organisms from lawsuits from big food and big chemical. The Senate voted on it last week. And it tanked, 71-27.
Sanders argued that "an overwhelming majority of Americans favor GMO labeling." I don't think so, not when health-conscious Californians rejected, if narrowly, Proposition 37, a GMO labeling ballot measure, last year. Boxer now stands as the rare senator who wants to make the Food and Drug Administration require labeling that her own voters rejected.
The pro-label lobby credits the industry's spending $44 million to defeat the measure. But money isn't everything in California politics. Just ask Gov. Meg Whitman.
I think Californians rejected the measure because they're sick of living in a State of Too Much Information. Since voters approved Proposition 65, the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, Californians have been bombarded with warning signs for 774 different chemicals. There are signs in hotels, in cars, at the gas station, all over supermarkets.
"It's like highlighting everything in a textbook," said Ken DeVore, California legislative director of the National Federation of Independent Business. "Nothing's highlighted when everything's highlighted."
For Boxer's part, she started with no co-sponsors. The Hill reports she now has more than 30 co-sponsors in the House and Senate. The FDA is considering approval for genetically modified salmon eggs for human consumption -- and that has delivered the support of two Alaska Republicans.
Though the overwhelming vote against the Sanders measure foreshadows defeat for Boxer's bill this year, she cannot lose for losing. Her argument sounds reasonable. As she noted in a press release, "Americans have the right to know what is in the food they eat so they can make the best choices for their families." Her bill wouldn't make packagers put a skull and crossbones on the label, she says -- just more information.