Quantcast
Food

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.).

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

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 ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Health
PxHere

This Common Preservative in Processed Food May Be Making You Tired

By Brian Mastroianni

Is it hard to motivate yourself to get off the couch and go exercise?

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
MarioGuti / iStock / Getty Images

EVs 101: Your Guide to Electric Vehicles

By Patrick Rogers

If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
An adult bush dog, part of a captive breeding program. Hudson Garcia

A Rescue Dog Is Now Helping to Save Other (Much Wilder) Dogs

By Jason Bittel

Formidable predators stalk the forests between Panama and northern Argentina. They are sometimes heard but never seen. They are small but feisty and have even been documented trying to take down a tapir, which can top out at nearly 400 pounds. Chupacabras? No.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
RoNeDya / iStock / Getty Images

What Is Mead, and Is It Good for You?

By Ansley Hill, RD, LD

Mead is a fermented beverage traditionally made from honey, water and a yeast or bacterial culture.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Climate
U.S. Army member helps clear debris from Tyndall Air Force Base following Hurricane Michael. U.S. Army

Pentagon: Climate Change Is Real and a 'National Security Issue'

The Pentagon released a Congressionally mandated report (pdf) that warns flooding, drought and wildfires and other effects of climate change puts U.S. military bases at risk.

The 22-page analysis states plainly: "The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense (DoD or the Department) missions, operational plans, and installations."

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Protesters interrupt the confirmation hearing for Andrew Wheeler on Capitol Hill Jan. 16 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

5 People Calling Out EPA Acting Head Wheeler for Putting Polluters First

This week, people across the country are joining environmental leaders to speak out against the nomination of former coal lobbyist Andrew Wheeler to lead the the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As Scott Pruitt's hand-picked successor, Wheeler has continued to put polluters over people, most recently by using the last of his agency's funding before it expired in the government shutdown to announce plans to allow power plants to spew toxic mercury and other hazardous pollution into the air.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Popular
Great white shark. Elias Levy / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Marine Biologists Raise Flags About Viral Great White Shark Encounter

By now you might have seen Ocean Ramsey's rare and jaw-dropping encounter with a great white shark in waters near Oahu, Hawaii.

Ramsey, a marine biologist, said on the TODAY Show that it was "absolutely breathtaking and heart-melting" to be approached by the massive marine mammal.

Keep reading... Show less
A tree found severed in half in an act of vandalism in Joshua Tree National Park. Gina Ferazzi / Los AngelesTimes / Getty Images

Wall Before Country Takes Mounting Toll on Americans Everywhere

By Rhea Suh

One month on, the longest and most senseless U.S. government shutdown in history is taking a grave and growing toll on the environment and public health.

Food inspectors have been idled or are working without pay, increasing the risk we'll get sick from eating produce, meat and poultry that isn't properly checked. National parks and public wilderness lands are overrun by vandals, overtaken by off-road joyriders, and overflowing with trash. Federal testing of air and water quality, as well as monitoring of pollution levels from factories, incinerators and other sources, is on hold or sharply curtailed. Citizen input on critical environmental issues is being hindered. Vital research and data collection are being sidelined.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

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