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What’s up with the ‘DARK Act’?

By Anya Vanecek
Public Health Digital Campaigner

There are two names for H.R. 1599: The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 and the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act.

There’s no doubt in my mind which is the more accurate. The proposed law would do nothing to make our food safer and would prevent consumers from getting more accurate information—leaving us effectively in the dark about our food.

Critics of GMOs have a long list of concerns. Some seeds have been bred to resist an herbicide that the World Health Organizationrecently deemed a “probable carcinogen”; such crops have helped support the rise of environmentally-taxing monoculture farming. Concerns about genetic contamination are heightened by a lack of research into the long-term health effects of the crops. Meanwhile, GMO supporters argue GM foods can produce more, have more nutrients, and save lives in the face of looming world-wide food shortages.

Those are only some of the reasons two economists recently called GMOs “perhaps the greatest case of human hubris ever” in a New York Times editorial.

But the fact is, the DARK act is not about the pros and cons of GMOs, about which there remains much debate. It’s about labels and consumers’ right to know.

Poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans – left, right, and center -- support GMO labeling. Overwhelmingly, these consumers want to know what they’re eating. To me, that seems a right almost too basic to challenge.

The House apparently disagrees. They voted to pass the act earlier this week. It has now moved to the Senate, and we’re calling on them to vote no on H.R. 1599.

What would the bill actually do? It would negate all existing GMO labeling laws and block states’ right to require food labels.

GMO labeling is designed to alert consumers to the presence of genetically modified ingredients, which are in upwards of 75 percent of processed food according to the Center for Food Safety. There has been huge pushback from seed and pesticide companies like Monsanto and industry groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association.

The millions these industry giants have spent managed to help defeat pro-labeling bills in several states including California, Washington, Colorado and Oregon. But last year, Vermont passed a law requiring GMO labels on all ingredients by July 2016. Connecticut and Maine also passed bills requiring labeling, but nearby states must have similar laws before the labels can be made mandatory.

H.R. 1599 would negate all of these laws. What’s more, it would nullify over a hundred local laws that regulate genetically engineered crops. Companies can still put their own labels, as many non-GMO-containing foods already have. But as Ken Roseboro, editor and publisher of the The Organic Non-GMO Report points out, “How many companies have voluntarily labeled their products as containing GMOs? None.”

Consumers have the right to know what they’re eating: that’s one thing we overwhelmingly agree on. And we shouldn’t have to fight for that information.

Help us call on our senators not to pass H.R. 1599!

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