By Mike Pomranz
Updated December 17, 2015
Credit: © Norma Jean Gargasz / Alamy

Congress’ 2009-page omnibus spending bill includes a lot of items. And with that many pages, you can bet some controversial provisions will slip through unnoticed—That bill ain’t filled with holiday pie recipes. For instance, the inclusion of the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act – or CISA – has turned a lot of heads for allowing the NSA to get its hands on cyber security information many believe should be private. However, another hotly contested acronym, GMOs, was mostly left out of the bill, with the notable exception of genetically engineered salmon – two results that are considered victories for the anti-GMO crowd.

Included in the bill is a provision requiring the FDA to create labeling guidelines for recently approved genetically modified salmon, an addition to the bill supported by Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA), who was against approval of commercially selling GMO fish to begin with. “If the FDA doesn’t reverse its decision, it’s critical the agency develop clear and transparent labeling requirements for genetically engineered salmon,” she stated.

Meanwhile, not included in the bill was any sort of language similar to that proposed in The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act. That act tried to undermine state GMO labeling laws like Vermont’s by making a federal GMO labeling system that was voluntary and pre-empted any state attempt at mandatory labeling. Considering the public pushback against GMO food right now it seems unlikely many people would sign up for such a voluntary system. Again, anti-GMO groups praised the decision to let states proceed with their own GMO labeling regulations, with the Center for Food Safety saying it was “very pleased that Congress has apparently decided not to undermine Americans’ right to know about the food they purchase and feed their families.”

Of course, leaving out specific GMO language doesn’t end the debate; it simply postpones it. But by not including a provision in this massive, nearly sure-to-pass bill, it does mean that a debate can actually happen on the subject instead of trying to sneak a decision through. Regardless of how you feel about GMOs, that’s a win for democracy.