A seven-page bipartisan bill that calls for a voluntary national standard for GMO labeling is moving forward.

This morning, the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee voted 14 to 6 on Committee Chair Pat Roberts’ (R-Kansas) bill that would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to set a national standard for genetically modified organism (GMO) food labeling.

“It is clear that what we’re facing today is not a safety or health issue. It is a market issue,” Roberts said. “This is really a conversation about a few states dictating to every state the way food moves from farmers to consumers in the value chain. We have a responsibility to ensure that the national market can work for everyone, including farmers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers.”

The bill, if made into law, would also require the USDA to promote the benefits of biotechnology.

It would preempt state labeling laws, specifically Vermont’s labeling law, which will go into effect July 1.

“Simply put, the legislation before us provides an immediate and comprehensive solution to the state-by-state patchwork of labeling laws,” Roberts said. “It sets national uniformity, based on science, for labeling food or seeds that are genetically engineered. This allows the value chain from farmer-to-processor-to-shipper-to-retailer-to-consumer to continue as the free market intended.”

According to the Hagstrom Report, Senate Agriculture ranking member Debbie Stabenow (D-Michigan) said she could not support anything but a mandatory labeling measure.

Roberts’ bill does not include mandatory labeling.

Agricultural organizations like the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) promote the bill and Roberts’ action to “secure uniform, voluntary biotech labeling standards across the country.”

The bill has also garnered the support of other agribusinesses, seed makers, food manufacturers, lenders and retailers, according to Roberts.

The full text of the proposed bill can be found here.