Passage of HR 1599 by the House Sparks Outrage, Triggers National Grassroots Lobbying Campaign to Stop the Bill
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 23, 2015
CONTACT: Organic Consumers Association: Katherine Paul, 207-653-3090, firstname.lastname@example.org
FINLAND, Minn. – Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1599, commonly known as the “DARK Act” (Deny Americans the Right to Know), a bill falsely represented by its sponsors as providing “certainty” and “clarity” for controversial genetically engineered foods, In fact, the legislation’s intent is to permanently preserve the right of food manufacturers to deceive consumers.
“We can only presume that the majority of Representatives who voted in favor of this legislation were duped by the multi-million dollar public relations and lobbying campaigns, funded by Monsanto and Big Ag, that falsely frame H.R. 1599 as pro-consumer, and perpetuate the myth that GMOs (genetically modified organisms) have been thoroughly safety tested and proven safe,” said Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association. “How else to explain why Congress would vote against science, against the more than century-old right of states to legislate on matters relating to food safety and labeling, and against the 90-percent of Americans who are in favor of mandatory labeling of GMOs?
“We are committed to stopping this outrageous, anti-consumer, anti-democracy legislation from succeeding,” Cummins said. “We will do so by mobilizing a massive opposition movement that transcends political party affiliations, and that unites consumers of all ages with organic farmers and retailers whose livelihoods are threatened by this legislation, and with the medical and scientific experts who are outspoken about the potential health and environmental risks associated with GMO crops and foods.”
H.R. 1599, deceptively titled the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” is sponsored by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), on behalf of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, of which Monsanto, Dow, Dupont and other chemical companies are members.
The bill would repeal existing state GMO labeling laws, such as Vermont’s Act 120, and would preempt any future state or federal laws requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods or foods containing GMOs.
H.R. 1599 would also codify the Food and Drug Administration’s position that genetically modified foods and ingredients don’t require labeling because they are as safe as those produced through conventional agriculture, thus ensuring that there will never be independent pre-market safety testing of GMO foods. The American Medical Association has recommended mandatory pre-market safety testing of these controversial gene-spliced foods, rather than the current system that relies on an FDA “voluntary consultation” process based on the industry’s own testing.
H.R. 1599 would also establish a voluntary “GMO-Free” labeling program, overseen by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and it would allow foods containing GMOs to be labeled “natural.”
H.R. 1599 has been sold to lawmakers on the basis of false claims. Contrary to what proponents of H.R. 1599 say:
1. There is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs, according to hundreds of scientists. Moreover, more than 80 percent of GMO crops are genetically engineered to be heavily sprayed with the toxic herbicide, Roundup. Roundup was recently declared a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization.
2. Labeling foods will incur little or no cost to food manufacturers or consumers. Food industry lobbyists have repeatedly used the “increased cost” argument to oppose mandatory nutrition or GMO labeling, basing their argument on a study funded by the Council for Biotech Information. But food manufacturers routinely update labels and numerous independent studies support the fact that labeling GMOs will not increase costs. In fact, many food corporations are preparing to implement a QR bar code system for labeling food ingredients, including GMOs—a system that would incur greater costs than merely adding the words “produced with genetic engineering” to their labels.
3. H.R. 1599 will create, not eliminate confusion for consumers, by allowing foods that contain GMOs, which are artificially created in a laboratory, to be labeled “natural.”
4. State GMO labeling laws will not create a “patchwork” of laws that would be cumbersome or costly for food manufacturers. State GMO labeling bills have been written using a single model, all of which would require the same wording: “produced with genetic engineering.”
“H.R. 1599 allows big corporations, such as Monsanto and Coca-Cola, to continue to deceive consumers,” Cummins said. “This bill not only takes away states’ rights to require labeling of GMOs, but also creates a government-run GMO-Free labeling system that places the expense and burden of labeling on organic and non-GMO food producers who do not expose consumers to risk, rather than requiring the perpetrators of the risks associated with cancer-causing chemicals and inadequately tested technologies to truthfully disclose the ingredients in their products. It’s no wonder that more than 90 perecent of Americans have lost faith in Congress. It’s time to hold every member of Congress accountable. Either they stand with Monsanto and Big Food in support of the DARK Act, or they stand with the overwhelming majority of their constituents for truthful labeling and consumer choice.”
In an op-ed July 13, 2015, in the New York Times, Mark Spitznagel, founder and chief investment officer of Universa Investments, and Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of “The Black Swan” and professor of risk engineering at New York University School of Engineering, wrote:
The G.M.O. experiment, carried out in real time and with our entire food and ecological system as its laboratory, is perhaps the greatest case of human hubris ever. It creates yet another systemic, “too big too fail” enterprise — but one for which no bailouts will be possible when it fails.
“To carry out a vast genetic experiment on the American public is outrageous,” Cummins said. “To continue to do it covertly, without full disclosure, is criminal. If necessary, we will mount the largest-ever food and food safety campaign in U.S. history to prevent Congress from turning the DARK Act bill into law.”
Organizational Bio: The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is an online and grassroots non-profit 501(c)3 public interest organization advocating on behalf of more than one million consumers for health, justice, and sustainability. The Organic Consumers Fund is a 501(c)4 allied organization of the Organic Consumers Association, focused on grassroots lobbying and legislative action.