WASHINGTON – Protesters briefly disrupted the Senate Wednesday, tossing paper money from the visitors' gallery and chanting, "The Senate can be bought" as lawmakers voted to move ahead with legislation that would require labeling for food products containing genetically modified organisms.
The demonstration briefly stunned lawmakers as they voted and the paper cascaded down. But they resumed work quickly as U.S. Capitol police forcibly removed two vocal protesters from the visitors' gallery. Senators voted 65-32 to proceed with the bill.
One of the officers put his hand over a protester's mouth to prevent her from yelling further. She appeared to be directing her criticism of the bill at Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., the ranking member on the Senate Agriculture Committee.
Stabenow last month announced that she had reached an agreement with Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., the committee's chairman, on the GMO bill. She called the legislation a win for families, farmers and food producers, and said it would establish "a national, mandatory system of disclosure for food that contains GMO ingredients."
Backers of the bill also said it would close loopholes created by a Vermont GMO labeling law that would have allowed tens of thousands of processed food products, like frozen dinners or entrees that contain meat and GMO ingredients, to go unlabeled.
But opponents, including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said the Senate bill gives the food industry too much leeway in deciding how consumers should be informed.
Sanders tweeted Wednesday that the bill is a "very bad piece" of legislation that is backed by Monsanto, the agriculture company based in St. Louis.