Congress Puts the GMO "DARK Act" Back On The Table
The "Denying Americans the Right to Know" (DARK) Act. That's what those of us most passionate about GMO labeling have called the various versions of a bill making its way through Congress right now.
It's a bill that just won't die. Like a hydra, that mythical monster with seven heads that grew back when they were lopped off, as soon as we get rid of one version of this bill another pops up to take its place. Last year the House passed a version of this monstrosity, which would take away states' rights to require labeling of GMO foods. Then a sneaky effort was made to slip it into the budget bill before Christmas. Thankfully, it didn't make it to law.
This spring several more varieties of this noxious weed of a law have made it to the Senate. The most recent incarnation came this month, and the anti-GMO world is wild with happiness because the bill was defeated.
The DARK Act is darker than you can imagine
Twenty-one states introduced bills aimed at labeling GMO foods last year. Three states — Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut — actually passed laws making labeling mandatory. The first of these is due to go into effect on July 1st.
Monsanto is running scared. Since 90% of us support GMO labeling, they see a huge chunk of their profits going down the drain. To avert this catastrophe, they've bought themselves some Congresspeople and set them to writing bills.
So far, about half a dozen bills have been written with the intent to undermine our right to know what we're eating. Although they've had different names, they're all slight variations on the original DARK Act. They all have two overarching goals in common: to take away states' rights to make their own labeling laws and to replace this with a nationwide "voluntary" labeling program. The USDA would have the authority to make labeling mandatory, but only if it decided that not enough companies were voluntarily labeling — which we know will never happen.
This means that the states who've already passed labeling laws would be forced to strike those laws from the books. Companies could then choose to label or not. And we've seen how well that works out. Companies have had the option to voluntarily label their Frankenfood since the first GMOs hit the market.
It hasn't happened. Because let's face it, they all know that the majority of us will choose non-GMO if given the option. Sixty-four other countries require GMOs to be labeled. Have you ever — EVER — seen an American food label that says "contains GMOs"?
And there's more. USDA would have authority over just how companies have to label their products, and the definition of "label" is as loose as a 20-year-old rubber band. "Labeling" could mean having a QR code you have to scan with your smartphone. This would take you to a website where you'd have to wade through who knows how much useless junk to find the information you're looking for. It could even, according to the latest version of the Act, simply mean listing a phone number to call for information.
That's not "labeling." Labeling is a big fat sticker that says "CONTAINS GMOs." Period.
Don't celebrate yet — this bill is still alive and well
While the whole internet seems to be cheering the death of this bill, the celebration is premature. The bill is not dead. It didn't fail this month. In fact, it wasn't even voted on. Here's what really happened:
The Monsanto puppets in Congress seem to have learned a lesson from their failure in 2015. After floating several DARK bills that died earlier this year, they finally did what they always do when they're trying to pass something sneakily — they slipped it into another bill.
That was a bill originally called the "National Sea Grant College Program Act." It's been around for 40 years and routinely gets reauthorized. It's a popular thing. Then last year, an amendment got tacked onto this old bill dealing with education funding and conservation. That amendment, as crazy as it sounds, authorized the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
If you think you missed something, you didn't. It makes no more sense to me than it does to you. But in the wacky world of Congress, this kind of thing happens all the time.
This month, seeing that their DARK bill was going nowhere, Monsanto's Congresspeople had the bright idea of tacking the DARK Act onto this bill also, hoping that the popularity of the original bill would get it passed. Needless to say, sticking these two controversial amendments in a totally unrelated bill generated some heated debate. And the fact that the DARK Act was tacked on only a week before the bill was due to be voted on caused some serious friction. In order to bring the amended bill to a final vote, the Senate first had to agree that the discussion period was over.
THIS is what they voted on this month. Not on whether the bill should be passed or not, but instead on whether they were through discussing it or not.
This vote was simply a vote to keep talking. This is NOT the "huge victory" we're seeing splashed all over headlines. Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I'm inclined to wonder. Are all the premature celebrations designed to take our attention away from this important issue so that Congress can quietly pass the measure and Mr. Obama can just as quietly quietly sign it into law?
In any case, the battle is far from over. The bill still has to go to a final "pass/fail" vote. And if it fails, another one WILL take its place. This is an issue that could shake Monsanto's very foundations. GMO sales will crash if they're labeled. That means that not only will Monsanto lose billions in seed sales, but sales of glyphosate — Roundup — will tank too, since it's designed for GMOs.
We're talking about multiple billions of dollars here. We're talking about the very roots of Monsanto. They're simply not going to let it happen.
So the DARK Act isn't going anywhere. It will be back. Again and again, till we've lopped off ALL of the hydra's heads and pruned Monsanto back down to size.
What can you do?
- Contact your Congresspeople. Tell them that you support our right to know what we're eating.
- Contact the USDA. Tell them that labeling should be mandatory, not voluntary, and that QR codes and phone numbers don't constitute labeling.
- Contact the FDA. Tell them that GMOs need to be proven safe beyond the shadow of a doubt before we're force-fed them.
- And contact the President. Tell him to veto any law that guts states' rights to make labeling laws, or undermines GMO labeling in any way.
It's your health. You deserve to know what's in your food.
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