Twenty-two years after the controversial introduction of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) into the U.S. food supply, with no independent safety testing nor labeling required, a critical mass of Americans1 have made it clear that they want to know whether the food they are eating contains genetically engineered (GE) ingredients.
Another significant segment, organic and natural health consumers, have made it clear that, given a choice, they will refuse to buy GMO-tainted foods, spending approximately $55 billion a year on foods labeled as "organic," "non-GMO," or "100 percent grass-fed."
After several hard-fought, heavily publicized ballot initiatives in California (2012), Washington (2013), and Oregon (2014), and attempts to pass mandatory GMO labeling in 30 states, Vermont passed a labeling law in May 2014 that is due to go into effect on July 1,2016.
Maine and Connecticut have also passed mandatory labeling laws, but these will not go into effect until additional New England states pass similar legislation.
The pending implementation of the Vermont labeling law has provoked panic among Monsanto and major food corporations, and their trade association, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).
This is understandable, given that 75 percent of processed foods in grocery stores contain unlabeled GMOs and the toxic pesticide residues that always accompany GMOs.
The Battle Continues for Mandatory Labeling
The GMO industry and Big Food understand that they cannot just label their processed foods and beverages as containing GMOs (or else reformulate them to remove GMOs) only in Vermont, while failing to do so in other states and markets in North America.
This would be a public relations disaster. They also understand that once their GMO-tainted foods are labeled, they will lose billions of dollars in sales to organic, non-GMO, and grass-fed brands.
In desperation, Monsanto, Coca-Cola, General Mills, Pepsi, Kellogg's and the GMA turned to Congress to preempt or nullify the Vermont law.
In July 2015, they convinced 275 of their faithful servants in the House of Representatives to pass the highly unpopular H.R. 1599,2 a bill introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan). This bill is colloquially known as the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know).
In the wake of a nationwide consumer backlash, led by networks including the Organic Consumers Association, Mercola.com, Dr. Bronner's, Food Democracy Now, Center for Food Safety and others, the Pompeo bill stalled out before reaching the Senate.
However, pro-GMO politicians from both parties are still desperately trying to come up with deceptive Senate legislation that will placate industry, by keeping consumers in the dark about whether or not the food they are eating is contaminated with GMOs, while pretending to respect consumers' right to know and state's rights to regulate GMOs.
In December, Monsanto and the GMA threatened to attach a back-door rider to a federal appropriations bill.
The rider, which would have voided Vermont's law and outlawed mandatory labeling, failed, mainly due to consumer pressure, including literally hundreds of thousands of emails, phone calls and in-person meetings with Congress members.