Contact Your Senator Now On the DARK Act!

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On July 23rd, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would eliminate the consumer’s right-to-know by blocking all state efforts to require labeling of genetically modified organism (GMO) foods. The “Deny Americans the Right to Know Act” or DARK Act would make voluntary labeling of GMO foods the national standard.

The labeling bill would also dilute the USDA organic certification because it does not explicitly state the certification as evidence of non-GMO, and includes no additional certification or testing requirements. Furthermore, the bill allows products to be labeled non-GMO while using GMO feed, processing aids or enzymes—despite the fact that existing USDA Organic regulations do not allow the use of GMO feed, processing aids or enzymes. 

We have already seen enormous confusion in the marketplace regarding the misleading use of the term “natural” on food labels. This bill would not only generally preempt state laws requiring disclosure of GMOs in food, but also state laws ensuring that consumers are not misled by deceptive “natural” claims.

The bill will likely be introduced in the Senate soon. So far, no Democratic Senator has stepped forward to co-sponsor the bill. With your help, we hope to keep it that way. United States Senator for Kansas, Pat Roberts, is expected to schedule a hearing before the Senate Agriculture Committee. The Grocery Manufacturers Association, a strong supporter of the legislation, is planning a lobby day in the Senate.

Some effects of the DARK Act

1) Vermont, Connecticut and Maine have passed legislation that would require labels on foods with genetically engineered ingredients. If passed, the DARK Act would override these state laws and prevent other states from requiring labeling in the future.

2) Not only would state labeling rules be blocked by the DARK Act, but a provision in the bill would prohibit state and local governments from passing legislation that would directly or indirectly impact cultivation of GMOs, such as a ban on planting GMOs or spraying GMO-associated pesticides.

3) The DARK Act would limit the ability of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to set a national mandatory labeling requirement by enshrining the current policy of voluntary labeling into law. The FDA’s long-standing policy has been that companies are allowed to voluntarily label their foods if they contain GMOs.

The DARK Act could be hidden in another bill.

Once again Congress is behind schedule with consideration of legislation that funds the federal government. The government is funded until mid-December, at which time there will likely be consideration of an “Omnibus” bill that funds the federal government in one massive bill. When this happens, bills don’t go through the normal legislative process where votes and amendments take place in committee hearings and floor debates. Instead, bills are negotiated behind closed doors; then, to increase the likelihood they’ll pass, brought to votes with only limited debate and amendments. Often the way to secure votes is to load the bill with special provisions.

The DARK Act could be one of those provisions.

Take Action!

We urge you to contact your Senator to say that you are opposed to the DARK Act and do not want to see this bill enacted into law. Please let them know you do not want this bill inserted into a larger “omnibus funding” bill. A number of consumer groups have taken on this issue, but it would be really good to have farmers weighing in as well.

The DARK Act would take away states’ rights to:

•   Label foods made with GMOs.

•   Prohibit state and local governments from passing legislation that would directly or indirectly impact cultivation of GMOs, such as a ban on planting GMOs or spraying GMO-associated pesticides.

•   Regulate GMOs to protect human health or the environment.

The DARK Act would strip the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of its powers to:

•   Acknowledge the difference between GMOs and normal foods, including the unique

  food safety risks of GMOs.

•   Conduct systematic pre-market safety assessments of GMOs, and require labels on GMOs.

•   The DARK Act does not require companies to disclose GMO ingredients and forbids state and federal governments from requiring labels. It therefore legally sanctions corporations’ right to deprive consumers of this information.

Please contact your Senator today and tell them you oppose the DARK Act. Click this link to find contact information for your Senator, http://whoismyrepresentative.com

Jane Shey

Policy Associate