Renewable Farming

Sneak attack to pass latest “Dark Act” could backfire on GMO food marketers


The multinational firms marketing transgenic seed have spent millions of dollars blocking state or federal requirements for clear, simple label disclosure on foods which contain GMO ingredients. At least 60 other nations require such disclosure, or prohibit  sale of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

July 1, 2016 — By Jerry Carlson

Vermont succeeded in passing a state law requiring such labeling; it went into effect July 1. But shortly after Independence Day, the Senate will vote on a bill which would strike down any state or local government’s ability to inform its citizens of GMO content in their food.

Bills to deny states the right to label GMO foods have been given the acronym “DARK” Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know). Read the entire bill in PDF form at this link.

This version, Senate 2609, would specifically bar current and future state or local labeling laws, such as Vermont’s.  

And it would make it very inconvenient for consumers to learn if there’s GMO content in a food package. You’d have to scan a QR code on the package label with a smart phone or other device, visit the company website, and read whatever disclosure of GMO content the company wishes to make. The label on the package would simply indicate “Scan here for more food information.” No clue as to whether the “more food information” refers to GMO content.

Another provision in Senate 2609 would allow food firms to list a phone number for consumers to call. The statement with the number would say only ‘Call for more food information.’

Further, the disclosures on food company websites are left vague. The “more food information” could be only a single mention such as “this product is manufactured with genetically engineered ingredients.”

And there’s more: Senate 2609 would block the Food and Drug Administration from making or administering a GMO labeling rule, although food labeling has long been considered one of FDA’s primary responsibilities. The DARK Act would give the Secretary of Agriculture control of a wide array of discretionary decisions over implementing the law.  

More yet: The requirement for disclosure would be delayed for two years. Possibly more, at the Secretary’s discretion.

This law is essentially useless to consumers, and usurps states’ rights to protect or advise their own citizens.  It would become law if 60 senators vote in favor. 

Previous attempts to block state labeling have failed in Congress. This version reveals one more example showing that many of our “lawgivers” are listening to lobbyists, not to American citizens.  Zen Honeycutt, founder of Moms Across America, describes the Senate’s maneuver: 

“This week, Senators used a tactic that has not been used since 1976 to try to push this Darkest of Dark Acts through to deny our right to know what is in our food.
They snuck the Dark Act in a Planned Parenthood defunding bill and called for a “test vote.” The results were that 68-29 voted FOR calling for a cloture (stop debate, no amendments) to move forward with the bill.

“On Wednesday, July 6th they will vote for cloture. If they get 60 Yeay votes, then the following vote to approve it will simply be a formality, and we will have lost state rights to a sham of a “labeling law” that isn’t mandatory, does not label ( they do NOT have to say “Produced with genetic engineering”), allows QR codes or websites instead, only labels a very narrow definition of GMOs so most would not require labeling, and eliminated Vermont’s state rights. Even the FDA criticizes this bill.”

Many studies have emphasized that consumers want to know whether their food is genetically modified. The Senate’s latest maneuver to block clear-cut, simple label disclosure is one more scrap of evidence why Americans’ approval rating of Congress has struggled to rise above 15% the past several years.  If passed, it could ignite rebellion among consumers, millions of whom are intent on improving the health qualities of their diets.

Here are some potential unintended consequences of this move to make GMO disclosure deliberately opaque:

1. It could accelerate the consumer trend to foods labeled “Organic” and “Non-GMO.”  As the certified non-GMO label appears on more packages, alert consumers will begin presuming any food product NOT labeled organic or non-GMO is tainted with gene-modified content.  Also, consumers are increasingly aware that foods with GMO ingredients are probable carriers of glyphosate herbicide residues. And the controversial evidence over glyphosate’s negative health impact is steadily mounting. The European Union almost blocked its re-approval of glyphosate because of conflicting studies as to whether it’s a “probable carcinogen.” 

2. It is weakening global confidence in U.S. food products. As more nations look at the health-related data, no number of nobel laureate endorsement of “safe” GMOs can obscure the fact that they’re carriers of glyphosate. The rates of major chronic diseases in America are soaring. The trend lines are parabolic — meaning that they’re rising at an accelerating rate.  Glyphosate-laced foods certainly aren’t the only reason so many more Americans are hit with cancer, diabetes, autism, digestive disorders and other chronic diseases. But trends in those diseases correlate very closely to the expansion of glyphosate use in the United States. We’ve published this information earlier on Renewable Farming. 

Kurt Straif, a senior scientist with the International Agency for Research on Cancer, is part of the multinational team that concluded glyphosate is a probable carcinogen. See this link for his comments in addition to our quote from him below:

“Our evaluation was a review of all the published scientific literature on glyphosate and this was done by the world’s best experts on the topic that in addition don’t have any conflicts of interest that could bias their assessment, and they concluded that, yes, glyphosate is probably carcinogenic to humans based on three strings of evidence, that is clear evidence of cancer in experimental animals, limited evidence for cancer for humans from real-world exposures, of exposed farmers, and also strong evidence that it can damage the genes from any kind of other toxicological studies.”

3. Rising demand for non-GMO crops could reverse the long uptrend in transgenic crop acreage and seed sales. The trend has already flattened in the U.S., as many farmers turn to non-GMO. The rush for consolidation among the multinational chemical/seed makers indicates that they anticipate a decline in their growth rate.  Frank Lessiter, founder and editor of No-Till Farmer magazine and website, documented the signals extensively in an excellent analysis published June 11 and updated in early July.  Frank, incidentally, is a journalist I’ve learned to respect greatly during my career as an ag journalist (which started just over 50 years ago). 

4. Such legislation is also corrosive of public confidence in our elected legislators. It is being pushed through in an almost clandestine and near-corrupt maneuver. That stinks of obedience to transgenic corporations, rather than responding to the rights of state governments and the desires of citizens.  The U.S. Consumers Union and many healthy-food organizations are disturbed by lawmakers’ attempts to stifle Americans’ right to know the origins of their food.