H.R. 1599, ironically labeled the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015,” otherwise known as the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” or DARK Act, was defeated in the U.S. Senate last week as S.R. 2621. Senators did not have enough votes for cloture, and the bill faced bi-partisan opposition. The bill would have preempted states from requiring labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Food companies developed the legislation.
The bill would also have continued the voluntary labeling system that lets companies use 1-88 numbers, URLs, QR codes, and social media to tell consumers about the GMOs they use in their products. It would have allowed the USDA to determine what GMO information is provided through the system. And it would have made it harder for companies like Campbell’s Soup and General Mills to voluntarily label their foods that contain GMOs. Since only 64% of Americans own a smart phone, QR codes would leave more than one-third of consumers in the dark. And only 50% of low income people in the U.S. own this type of phone.
Polls show that almost 90% of American want this type of labeling on the food they buy. Sixty four other nations, including Russia and China, require GMO labeling on food products.
Center for Food Safety’s Andrew Kimbrell said in a statement, “the defeat of the DARK Act is a major victory for the food movement and America’s right to know. It is also an important victory for democracy over the attempt of corporate interests to keep Americans in the dark about the foods they buy and feed their families. The right to know is a right for all, not just those who can afford it.”
Center for Food Safety sent a letter to the members of the Senate, pointing out that the bill was discriminatory against low income, rural Americans, minorities, and the elderly. Large percentages of those populations do not own smartphones. A legal analysis conducted by CFS pointed out that the bill was potentially “unconstitutional and a violation of equal protection under the law.”
Vermont’s GE labeling law is going to go into effect this July. Big food and biotech corporations have been fighting to block this implementation for years. More than 30 other states have introduced legislation to label these foods in 2013 and 2014. Laws were passed in Connecticut and Maine in addition to Vermont.
Opponents of GMO and GE labeling say that food will cost more if labeling is implemented, even though study after study has shown that is not true. In fact, studies have shown that this labeling will cost consumers less than a penny per day. Big agriculture, food companies, and biotech corporations that make pesticides, such as Monsanto, have spent millions to defeat these labeling measures on ballots around the country. The Grocery Manufacturers Association alone has spent more than $80 million against labeling initiatives.
And this defeat for corporations does not mean that opponents of labeling and the consumers’ right to know are going to give up. The bill will most likely be introduced into Congress again.