Dozens of food industry groups recently called for Congress to include new standards for labels of genetically modified foods in a year-end spending bill.
The Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food for months touted legislation that would establish a voluntary labeling program for foods free of GMO ingredients.
But the legislation would also pre-empt state laws that require companies to disclose modified ingredients on their products, which drew scorn from consumer groups.
The House passed its version of the bill in July, but the Senate has not moved similar legislation forward.
In a letter to congressional leaders, the coalition argued that instead of taking up stand-alone legislation, lawmakers should include the GMO bill in a $1 trillion measure designed to stave off a government shutdown ahead of this weekend’s deadline.
"Today interest groups across the country are pushing state-level labeling mandates that will exacerbate consumer confusion and drive up food prices," the groups wrote. "Instead of informing consumers, these state initiatives are filled with loopholes, exempting as much as two-thirds of foods."
Although the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that GMOs are safe, numerous states considered labeling requirements for those foods in recent years, and Vermont, Connecticut and Maine enacted standards into law.
The latter two laws would take effect only if their neighboring states took similar steps, but Vermont's law is scheduled to take effect in July if it survives a legal challenge.
Critics, however, fired back at the letter with ads that decried the effort as "a year-end sneak attack to block your right to label."
The ad, run by the Center for Food Safety, highlights recent FDA approval of genetically modified salmon.
Senators, meanwhile, expressed skepticism about their ability to find common ground on labeling standards.
"I am still trying to come up with a compromise that brings both sides together, and it doesn't seem like we'll have that by year-end," said Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota.