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VICTORY - The Dark Act did not Pass!

Discussion in 'Area Restaurants, Dining and Food' started by KTdid, Jul 23, 2015.

  1. KTdid

    KTdid Well-Known Member

    Jun 14, 2006
    Likes Received:
    “DARK Act” (Deny Americans the Right to Know)
    The House of Representatives is set to vote on the anti-GMO labeling bill H.R. 1599, also known as the DARK Act, TODAY

    There are two names for H.R. 1599, the controversial Republican-backed bill concerning GMO labeling that is currently moving through the House of Representatives.

    The first is its bland, official name: The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015. The second is the nickname given by its opponents: Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act. Together, they reveal the two sides in the frequently bitter fight about the safety of genetically modified food.

    Critics of GMOs have a long list of concerns. Take Monsanto’s notorious “Roundup Ready” seeds. They have been bred to resist an herbicide recently deemed a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization; they have led to a rise in monoculture crop production; and they have been linked to the decline of the Monarch butterfly. Critics also worry about genetic contamination and a lack of research into the long-term health effects of the crops.

    For these reasons and more, two economists recently called GMOs “perhaps the greatest case of human hubris ever” in a New York Times editorial, saying agriculture industry has created a system “too big to fail,” much like the banking industry in 2008.

    Meanwhile, GMO supporters argue that the world is facing a global hunger crisis, and foods genetically modified to have more nutrients could be potential lifesavers.

    But H.R. 1599 is not about the existence of GMOs, which are entrenched in American agriculture (GMO crops account for around 90 percent of corn and soy grown in the country). It’s about whether the genetically modified foods you buy should be labeled as such. And because independent poll after poll shows that the majority of Americans support GMO labeling, the bill’s opponents see the bill as nothing more than the agrochemical industry flexing its lobbying muscles.

    The bill passed through the House Agriculture Committee last week, and will go up for debate on the House floor as early as next week; many in the industry expect the House to get to it before the August recess. Here’s what you need to know about the so-called DARK Act and how it affects GMO labeling and production as a whole:

    1. It would negate all existing GMO labeling laws.

    Most of the legislature around GMO labeling has been designed to alert consumers to the presence of genetically modified ingredients, which the Center for Food Safety estimates are in at least 70 percent of processed food. Pesticide and seed companies like Monsanto and industry groups like the Grocery Manufacturers Association have spent millions defeating pro-labeling bills in several states, including California, Washington, Colorado and Oregon.

    Despite the industry’s deep pockets, a law passed in Vermont last year that would require mandatory GMO labeling for all ingredients by July 2016. Connecticut and Maine have also both passed bills requiring labeling, but they can only take effect once enough states nearby have similar laws. H.R. 1599 would negate all of these laws, and more–according to the Center for Food Safety. The preemption language in the bill would nullify over a hundred local laws that, directly or indirectly, regulate genetically engineered crops.

    There’s nothing stopping food companies from doing their own labeling. But as Ken Roseboro, editor and publisher of the The Organic & Non-GMO Report points out, they’ve had this power since 2001, when the FDA issued guidance on voluntary GMO and non-GMO labeling. “How many companies have voluntarily labeled their products as containing GMOs since then? None,” he says.

    2. The bill would give jurisdiction over non-GMO certification to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which doesn’t have the same rigor as independent certification programs.

    Because of public perception around GMOs, companies are much more likely to advertise the absence of genetically modified ingredients in their products–whether they’re big corporations like Chipotle and General Mills, or small food companies using labels like the butterfly and checkmark logo of the Non-GMO Project, an independent nonprofit.

    H.R. 1599 would put the system of voluntary non-GMO certification under the jurisdiction of the USDA. The USDA already has its own (new) certification program, which is much less rigorous than the Non-GMO Projects and doesn’t require testing or segregation. If the bill passes, however, independent verifiers would essentially use the USDA’s standards and process (much like with the federal organic standards). No one knows whether the new USDA verification process will take longer, cost more, or be more onerous than independent verifications. (A previous version of the bill had language that would block private GMO-free labels, but that has been taken out of the current draft.)

    3. There is language in the bill that preempts state and local laws regarding the production of GMO crops, not just labeling.

    To opponents of the bill, this is far more sinister than the labeling laws. As a response to concerns about the health and environmental effects of GMOs, a few counties in California and Oregon have led grassroots efforts and passed laws that limit genetically engineered crop production or even establishGMO-free zones.”

    H.R. 1599 would overturn all of these laws and preempt new ones from taking their place. “It removes local control over GMOs from citizens,” says Roseboro.

    4. The bill would expand the definition of “natural” to include some genetically modified ingredients.

    The natural label is something of a joke in the industry, because it means so little; many highly processed foods can be considered “natural,” and unlike organic, there isn’t an official verification process behind the term. But there is language in H.R. 1599 that allows companies to make “natural” claims on packaging even if the food contains GMOs.

    Opponents of the bill believe that it will add to consumer confusion. A Consumer Reports survey found that nearly 60 percent of shoppers look for the “natural” label on foods and more than 75 percent of them believe that the label has specific attributes like lack of artificial coloring, flavor, or GMOs–even though it has no legal definition.

    5. Even if the bill is introduced in the Senate, it probably won’t pass–and there are bills in both the House and Senate in favor of mandatory labeling.

    As we all know, a bill needs to pass in both the House and Senate before it becomes a law. The Senate corollary to H.R. 1599 hasn’t been introduced at press time, though many expect it to appear any day now. But experts say the odds of it finding enough Democratic backing in the Senate are slim–and it would still need to be signed into law by President Obama.

    In February, Democrats in both the House and Senate introduced bills that would require mandatory national GMO labeling administered by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Neither is as far along as H.R. 1599, but they represent hope for those who believe in GMO labeling on the federal level. See the latest on state-level labeling efforts here.

  2. KTdid

    KTdid Well-Known Member

    Jun 14, 2006
    Likes Received:
    March 16th, 2016

    Defeat of the “DARK Act” is Major Victory for America’s Right to Know

    Today the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act failed to garner enough votes for cloture by a vote of 49-48, effectively defeating the bill. The bill introduced by Senator Roberts (R-KS) faced bi-partisan rejection. The bill would have preempted the genetically engineered food labeling laws in Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Alaska. In its place it would have put a voluntary labeling scheme that relies primarily on QR codes, websites and call in numbers to inform consumers about the presence of GMOs.

    “The defeat of the DARK Act is a major victory for the food movement and America’s right to know,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “It also is an important victory for Democracy over the attempt of corporate interests to keep Americans in the Dark about the foods they buy and feed their families.” Kimbrell concluded.

    Only 64 percent of Americans own a smartphone. That means that more than a third of all Americans will not be able to use this ersatz form of labeling. Moreover, as one would expect, those left out are disproportionately the poor and those living in non-urban areas. According to Pew Research Center, only 50% of low income people in the U.S. own a smartphone and only 52% of people living in rural areas own a smartphone. And even those who own smartphones are not guaranteed consistent access to the internet, and far fewer than that have ever used a QR code - less than 20 percent. Smartphones and data plans are expensive, and nearly half those who have smartphones have had to shut off their service at some point due to financial hardship.

    Center for Food Safety sent
    a letter to all members of the Senate pointing out that the Robert’s bill was discriminatory against low income and rural Americans, minorities and the elderly, in that large percentages of these groups do not even own smartphones. Accordingly a legal analysis provided by CFS to the Senate indicated that the bill was potentially unconstitutional and a violation of equal protection under the law. The CFS letter also noted that no consumer would ever have the time to check all their products through call in numbers or QR codes and that the bill was in fact a non-labeling bill under the guise of a labeling bill. The bill also raised serious question about consumer privacy.

    "QR code labeling discriminates against the poor, minorities, rural populations and the elderly. They are a completely unacceptable substitute for clear, concisely worded on package labeling," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety. "The right to know is a right for all, not just those who can afford it."

    With Vermont’s GE labeling law set to go into effect July 1 2016, big food and biotechnology interests have attempted to block its implementation, both through the courts and in Congress. The industry has for months sought action by Congress that would preempt states from passing GE labeling laws. Such a bill, called the DARK Act by labeling advocates, passed in the House of Representatives this summer.

    Opponents of mandatory GE labeling frequently cite significantly higher food costs as part of their rationale, however, the higher numbers they reference are based on the assumption that manufacturers will incur costs by switching to non-GE ingredients. This is a false assumption and should not be equated with labeling costs. Such a move would be the result of market pressures, not labeling mandates.
    64 countries around the world require GE food labeling and have not reported higher food costs as a result.

    In January, Campbell’s broke with the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which has long opposed mandatory GE food labeling and is
    currently under legal scrutiny for its multimillion dollar campaign to fight Washington State’s GE food labeling ballot initiative. The iconic soup company instead announced that in the interest of its consumers, it would label all of its products containing GE ingredients. In an interview with The New York Times, a Campbell’s spokesperson “noted that adoption of the 1990 Nutrition Labeling and Education Act, which required companies to add nutritional information to their labels, did not significantly raise costs.”

    By an overwhelming margin, American voters say consumers should have the right to know if their food is genetically modified, with 89 percent in support of mandatory GE labeling,
    according to a new national poll. Nearly the same number of consumers would like to see the labels in an easy to read format, not via a barcode or other technology.

    More than 30 states
    introduced legislation to require GE labeling in 2013 and 2014, with laws recently passed in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine.


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