The industry-sponsored voluntary GMO labeling bill is heading for a floor vote in the House, and could be voted on any day now. URGENT Action Alert!
Last week, the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015” introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS)—better known by pro-labeling advocates as the “Deny Americans’ Right to Know (DARK) Act”—was approved by the House Agriculture Committee.
The next stop for the bill was supposed to be the Energy and Commerce Committee. But hours after the Ag Committee approved it, the announcement came that the bill would go right to the House floor just days later, bypassing Energy and Commerce altogether.
Regular readers will remember that the DARK Act would pre-empt state-level, mandatory GMO labeling efforts with a wholly voluntary federal standard. Companies could elect to apply to the USDA for a “GMO-free” label, and then the FDA would review the product—or they could elect not to label their products at all, leaving consumers in the dark about what’s in their food. The bill is being pushed by the biotech industry and the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association.
New additions to the DARK Act also prevent local communities from banning GMO crops!
If the DARK Act passes the House, its next stop would be the Senate. We reported in May that Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND) is preparing his own—again, completely voluntary—GMO labeling bill. Whether the Senate will consider the House-approved DARK Act, or Hoeven’s bill when it’s ready, or neither, remains to be seen.
These developments come on the heels of a new study that raises even more concerns about the safety of GMO foods. The study, published in the Agricultural Sciences journal, found evidence that genetic modifications can destroy the equilibrium in cells, in some cases resulting in an accumulation of formaldehyde. The study makes suggestions as to how to improve health and safety testing of GMOs as the White House begins a review of how the government regulates GMOs (see the next article in this week’s Pulse for more details).
As we’ve said before, supporters of the DARK Act seem to care more about doing the bidding of the biotech industry than about standing up for consumers. Poll after poll after poll show that consumers consistently and overwhelmingly support mandatory GMO labeling. That this bill is being put on the fast track by lawmakers kowtowing to powerful special interests with deep pockets is a clear affront to constituents.
Besides the fact that consumers have a right to know what’s in their food, the DARK Act also unfairly puts the onus on traditional farmers and food producers to label their food as “GMO-free” when it should be the other way around. Small producers would likely be unable to afford the costs of whatever process USDA develops for the “GMO-free” label, and USDA is so thoroughly pro-GMO that the process might be unfriendly even for big producers.
Companies are trying to put what amounts to little more than rogue science experiments on our tables: no long-term safety studies have shown that GMOs are safe, yet there is a tremendous amount of evidence that GMOs are extremely dangerous. Such companies should be the ones alerting the public of their food’s contents. Under the DARK Act, Americans would need to play a guessing game about what’s in their food.
Unfortunately—but unsurprisingly—the mainstream media also seem to be compliant with biotech’s goals. When Chipotle announced they were going GMO-free, mainstream media outlets like Time magazine, NPR, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Chicago Tribune skewered the company for its decision. Rather than critically presenting ALL of the evidence of the GMO debate, many news outlets chose to present the issue as if the science were completely settled and GMOs are safe. It is noteworthy that these same media outlets depend on industry advertising for their survival.
Incidentally, we’ve seen similar trends in the coverage of the vaccine issue: non-scientists in the media attempting to convince the public that the science on an issue is settled when the reverse is actually true, and anyone who disagrees is an unhinged conspiracy theorist. (Note: you can visit our GMO Fact Check page to see biotech’s pro-GMO arguments debunked point-by-point.)
Another good example is a recent editorial in the Washington Post titled, “Why We’re So Scared of GMOs, According to Someone Who Has Studied Them Since the Start.” The “someone” presented in the article is an agricultural researcher at a Midwestern land-grant university—institutions that, starved of federal funds, are increasingly becoming extensions of Monsanto and Dow’s research and development departments. Can we rely on researchers at such institutions to be fair and balanced when it comes to presenting the science on GMOs? You decide.
The bottom line is that consumers have spoken loud and clear when it comes to the issue of GMO labeling. We must now work to make that voice heard in the halls of the Capitol.
Action Alert! Write to your legislators in both the House and the Senate and urge them to oppose the DARK Act, which would keep consumers in the dark about what’s in their food. Please send your message immediately.