DARK Act Heads to Senate, Bill Would Block Mandatory GMO Labeling

The GMO label law fight took a turn Tuesday after the Senate Agriculture Committee voted to pass the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (SAFE) in a 14-6 vote.

Dubbed by opponents as the Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, if voted into law, the bill would block states from requiring labeling on genetically modified (GMO) foods and pre-empt state laws that require labeling from going into effect—like the one taking effect in Vermont in July.

The Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.)-introduced bill would establish a national voluntary labeling standard for foods made with GMOs, similar to the bill already passed in the House. Proponents of the bill—such as the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), which represents more than 300 food and beverage titans—argue that a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies would be costly.

The GMA, which has slapped numerous lawsuits and spent millions in lobbying against mandatory labels at the state and federal level, commended the vote.

“We thank Senator Roberts for his leadership to find a common-sense solution that now goes to the full Senate with bipartisan momentum,” said GMA president and CEO Pam Bailey, in a statement. “It is critically important that the full Senate pass this legislation as quickly as possible and for the bill to be voted on by the House. Vermont’s mandatory labeling law goes into effect on July 1, and this law could increase food costs for families across the nation by an average of $1,050 a year.”

The comment is similar to the Corn Refiners Association's warning that GMO labeling will ultimately force manufacturers to reformulate products to non-GMO and pass on costs to consumers. “We know that we have to stop the wrecking ball. That’s the whole thing,” Roberts told reporters Monday night before the Senate Ag. vote.

Opponents, on the other hand, cite polls showing that the majority of Americans want to know if they're eating GMOs, a right given to consumers in 64 countries around the world. Voters across the U.S. are demanding transparency in their food, as more than 30 states have introduced legislation to require GMO labels and laws passed in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.

"The version of the DARK Act that passed the Senate Agriculture Committee today would rob Americans of their right to know what’s in their food. Nine out of ten Americans want the same rights as consumers in Russia, China and more than 60 other nations that require mandatory GMO labeling," Scott Faber, the Environmental Working Group’s senior vice president of government affairs, said.

Faber also refuted that GMO labeling would be prohibitively expensive: "The truth is, food companies change their labels all the time to highlight innovations or make new claims. Adding a few words to the back of the package as part of a routine label change will have no impact on the cost of making food, studies show."

Read page 1

The Center for Food Safety has also condemned the new bill. “It is very disturbing that Republicans in Congress, while blocking any meaningful legislation, have found the time to push a law that deprives Vermont’s citizens their right to know about the food they buy, and could rescind over one hundred and thirty other state laws on food and seed. The Democrats who consented to pushing this bill forward will certainly be hearing from the food movement,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety, said.

Several Democratic Senators have also spoken out against the bill. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) released a joint statement Monday saying that the bill is essentially a industry attack on their state:

We cannot allow the interests of multinational corporations to trump the interests of American consumers. These powerful interests claim that the sky is falling, and it is not. Our state, defending Vermonters’ right to know, has chosen to require labeling of factual, noncontroversial information for consumers. We know the companies can do this—firms like Campbell’s have said so. They already are working with Vermont to comply with the labeling requirement and have labels printed and ready to go.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) also sent out this tweet, calling the SAFE Act a "sham GMO bill":

Somewhat in the middle ground of the whole GMO labeling rumble, ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) voted against the draft bill in order to find a compromise that works for consumers and the industry alike. She said in a statement:

As I have said from the beginning of this process: for a solution, which includes a 50 state preemption, to receive the broad support necessary to pass the Senate; it must contain a pathway to a national system of mandatory disclosure that provides consumers the information they need and want to make informed choices.

Three Democrats out of nine on the Sen. Ag. Committee voted to allow it to go the full Senate. All of the Republicans voted in favor of the bill. The draft bill will now move out of committee into the full Senate.

Still, it's unclear if the bill will garner enough Senate votes for passage into law, as POLITICO pointed out:

The legislation will need more Democratic support as it's far from clear that there are enough votes for it to pass the upper chamber. Republicans can't count on Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio as they campaign for president, and Roberts told reporters Tuesday he's not sure all 54 Republicans would be on board anyway.

"Compromise is necessary to get the additional votes that I would like to have," Roberts told reporters. "I would like to have a very solid vote, and you have to have 60."

Food & Water Watch's Executive Director Wenonah Hauter is urging "all Senators to oppose this bill that will ensure that big food processing companies and the biotechnology industry continue to profit by misleading consumers." She says that "the majority of Americans support labeling for GMOs and will hold their elected officials accountable if they vote to strip away transparency about how their food is produced.”

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) is also set to introduce a bill today that would require food makers to disclose the presence of GMO ingredients on Nutrition Facts labels, according to POLITICO. The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Leahy and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).


No, GMO Labeling Won’t Increase Food Prices

Nation’s First Vegan-Certified Farm Is Booming in Philly

Vandana Shiva: Make Monsanto Pay

10 Reasons to Oppose the Senate Version of the DARK Act

Show Comments ()
Airbus, Rolls-Royce and Siemens are developing hybrid electric commercial airplane plane. Airbus

Norway Aims for Electric Planes to Help Slow Climate Change

Norway—home to the world's highest per capita number of all-electric cars—is also planning to go emission-free in the friendly skies.

The Scandinavian country aims to be the first in the world to switch to electric air transport.

Keep reading... Show less
A massive sinkhole in Winkler County, Texas. Google Earth

Large Swath of Texas Oil Patch Rapidly Sinking and Uplifting, Study Finds

West Texas is already home to two giant sinkholes near the town of Wink caused by intensive oil and gas operations. Now, according to an unprecedented study, the "Wink Sinks" might not remain the last in the region.

Geophysicists at Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas have found rapid rates of ground movement at various locations across a 4,000-square-mile swath around the two sinkholes. This area is known for processing extractions from the oil-rich Permian Basin.

Keep reading... Show less

Study Shows Some Pesticides More Bee-Safe Than Others, But Are Any Pesticides Eco-Friendly?

A study published Thursday in Current Biology is being hailed in a University of Exeter press release as a major "breakthrough" in developing bee-friendly insecticides. But some environmentalists think the research is asking the wrong questions to begin with.

Keep reading... Show less
Parks & Wildlife Service, Western Australia / Twitter

More Than 140 Whales Dead After Mass Stranding in Western Australia

More than 150 short-finned pilot whales stranded en masse at Hamelin Bay on the west coast of Australia early Friday morning.

Most of the whales did not survive after beaching themselves, according to Jeremy Chick, incident controller at Western Australia's Parks & Wildlife Service.

Keep reading... Show less
Renewable Energy

Tech Giant Microsoft Signs Largest Corporate Solar Agreement in the U.S.

By Katrine Tilgaard Petersen

Microsoft has announced the single largest corporate purchase of solar power ever seen in the U.S., signing an agreement with sPower to add 315 MW of electricity via two solar projects in Virginia.

Microsoft has been powered by 100 percent renewable electricity since 2014. In 2015, the tech giant joined RE100, a global corporate leadership initiative by The Climate Group in partnership with CDP, now bringing together 130 ambitious companies committed to sourcing entirely renewable power.

Keep reading... Show less

The New Government Omnibus Spending Bill Shows That Science Advocacy Matters

By Yogin Kothari

After a long wait, late Wednesday night, Congress posted a spending agreement for the rest of the 2018 fiscal year. For the most part, we achieved significant victories, especially given the challenging political environment, in repelling proposals that would have directly undermined the role of science in public health and environmental policymaking.

Keep reading... Show less

Pipeline Leaks 42,000 Gallons Into Indiana Stream

Forty-two thousand gallons of diesel spilled from a Marathon Petroleum Corporation pipeline into Big Creek in Posey Creek, Indiana before the leak was detected Tuesday evening, U.S. News & World Report reported Wednesday.

The pipeline was immediately shut off, and workers contained the spill with two booms before it reached the Wabash River.

Keep reading... Show less

Skylines to Switch Off as Millions Connect to the Planet to Celebrate Earth Hour 2018

On Saturday, March 24 at 8:30 p.m. local time, skylines around the world will go dark as millions celebrate WWF's Earth Hour to spark global awareness and action on nature and the environment.

From the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building, and the Bird's Nest stadium to Burj Khalifa, thousands of landmarks will switch off their lights in solidarity for the planet, urging individuals, businesses and governments worldwide to move forward the conversations and solutions we need to build a healthy, sustainable future for all.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!