Senators have rejected a bill that would have stopped states from issuing mandatory laws governing GMO labeling. 
Non-GMO Foods
Credit: © Carline Jean / Getty Images

The DARK Act is DOA in the Senate.

Earlier today, Senators voted 49-48 to block the bill—technically named the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015—a controversial piece of legislation governing the labeling of GMOs. The bill needed the backing of 60 senators to pass cloture and proceed to a majority vote.

"We did it!" said renowned chef and Top Chef judge Tom Colicchio in a press release sent out shortly after the vote. "In a stunning defeat for Monsanto and Big Food, the Senate just voted to stop the DARK Act in its tracks and to protect our right to know if GMO ingredients are in our food."

The bill, which passed through the House of Representatives last year, would have eliminated "any state laws attempting to protect consumers from being deceived by potentially misleading 'natural' claims on food (including laws that have nothing to do with GMOs)," according to a blog post by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). It would also have negated existing laws concerning the labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs, which have long been a source of controversy within the food industry. Instead, regulatory power for GMO labeling would have passed to the USDA, which many people believe is less rigorous in its assessments than independent certification programs.

According to an op-ed by the Hill, which opposed the bill, the Senate version of the bill would have made it even more difficult than previously "for industry leaders like Campbell’s Soup to voluntarily disclose the presence of GMOs."

Consumer groups have lobbied for years to pass more stringent laws requiring the labeling of GMOs, but food labeling legislation has proven notoriously difficult to get through Congress.

And despite the ongoing debate, many people believe that it is perfectly safe to consume GMOs. As of 2012, the American Medical Association said "there is no scientific justification for special labeling of bioengineered foods, as a class, and that voluntary labeling is without value unless it is accompanied by focused consumer education."

More than half of Americans believe that GMOs are unsafe to eat, according to a poll by the Pew Research Center, but a separate Pew study suggests that scientists overwhelmingly disagree: According to that poll, 88 percent of scientists connected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) believe that GMOs are safe to eat.

So while research into and argument over the safety of altered fruits, vegetables and livestock continues, for the time being, states are still free to stamp all of them with scarlet GMO labels.