On July 23, 2015, the US House of Representatives passed HR 1599,1 ironically misnamed "The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act"2,3,4 more commonly referred to as the "Deny Americans the Right to Know" or DARK Act.
Despite heavy opposition, the measure was approved 275-150.
The “DARK” Act (HR 1599) specifically preempts states’ rights to create their own GMO food labeling laws and, if passed by the Senate, will effectively block Vermont’s GMO labeling law, set to take effect in 2016.
This is a significant blow to Americans’ right to truthful and transparent information about the food we eat, and Republican dissention in the Senate is our last hope to put a stop to this latest and most monstrous incarnation of the “Monsanto Protection Act.”
Pro-GMO Forces Spent Nearly $64 MILLION on Lobbying This Bill to Pass the House
According to a report5 by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), food and biotechnology companies spent $63.6 million in 2014 to lobby specifically for this kind of anti-labeling legislation. That’s nearly three times the amount spent on anti-labeling lobbying efforts in 2013.
Of the $25.4 million spent by the Grocery Manufacturers Association for GMO related lobbying last year, nearly half ($13.3 million) came from Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. These numbers dwarf those of the pro-labeling lobby, which spent a mere $2.6 million in 2014.
The report also notes that between 2012 and 2014, labeling opponents spent $105.8 million to defeat GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California, Washington, Colorado, and Oregon, and that doesn’t even include funds used to lobby state legislatures.
HR 1599 Eliminates State Rights
In addition to barring states from creating their own food labeling requirements for genetically modified organisms (GMOs), HR 1599, introduced by Rep. Pompeo, also preempts any and all state and local regulation of GE crops, and further weakens federal oversight.6
Moreover, rather than simply labeling foods containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, the bill calls for the creation of a USDA non-GMO certification program similar to its National Organic Program — essentially shifting all of the costs over to those who want to declare that their foods are not GMO.
This system is as backwards as it gets. If GMOs were labeled, as they rightfully should be, there would be no need for GMO-free labeling, which was originally nothing more than a workaround to give consumers what they want — the right to make an informed purchasing decision.
The basic premise and purpose of general food labeling is to inform you of what’s in the food you’re buying; its basic ingredients and additives — not what’s NOT in the food (unless it relates to a known health risk, such as peanut allergy or gluten intolerance).
Due to industry manipulation aimed at hiding controversial and potentially hazardous ingredients and residues, we’ve seen this shift in burden, starting with non-RBGH labels for dairy products using milk from cows not given synthetic, genetically engineered recombinant bovine growth hormones, which have been linked to cancer.
Now any food that does not contain a man-made genetic experiment will be forced to declare that they’re “normal” on the label, or be assumed to contain GMOs. It’s completely nonsensical and the only beneficiaries of such a convoluted, backward system are the biotechnology and the processed food industries.