UPDATE: President Obama signed S 764 on July 29th, 2016 (this blog was originally published on July 15th, 2016).
On July 14th, 2016, the U.S. House of Representatives passed Congress’ National Bioengineered Labeling Bill, dubbed by supporters of transparency as the DARK (“Deny Americans the Right to Know”) Act. In absolute defiance of the will of the American people who widely want true GMO (genetically modified organism) food labeling, this vote has sent a jolt across the U.S.
More than 60 countries around the world require labeling of GMOs – the U.S. and Canada are not among them. Time and time again, people have stated that they want to know what’s in the food they eat and feed their families. Continued studies shows that 9 out of 10 consumers believe genetically engineered ingredients should be labeled.
To date, no commercially produced GMO provides consumer benefit. Increasingly, North Americans are questioning the negative impacts of GMO agriculture. These concerns are mainly centered on the environment, health, farmers’ rights, and seed sovereignty.
What is the DARK Act?
The Senate’s legislation was co-sponsored by Pat Richard (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI). The sweeping bill crushes states’ rights by prohibiting any current or future state law requiring GMO labeling; while at the same time dramatically undercutting federal, state and local government regulation and labeling of GMOs. By preempting all state and local oversight of GMOs, the bill would negate more than 130 existing statutes, regulations, and ordinances in 43 states at the state and municipal level.
Here is a summary of the bill that has cleared Congress, and now rests on President Obama’s desk:
- Manufacturers have the option of using a QR code, website address, toll free number, USDA approved symbol or other text (TBD: something like “Scan Here for more Information”)
- Genetic modification only includes DNA or the transferring of genes
- Biotechnologies like RNA interference and gene editing, including CRISPR, are exempt
- Livestock is exempt – even if the animal eats genetically modified feed
- Animal products as the main ingredient: meat, poultry, eggs are exempt
- Smaller quantities of ingredients (like high fructose corn syrup) are exempt
- Organic can now make the non-GMO claim without additional testing
- Will override Vermont Act 120, but can take up to two years to go into effect
Will this threaten the work of the Non-GMO Project?
While the DARK Act won’t remove the Non-GMO Project Verified seal from grocery shelves, the bill as written could create confusion in the marketplace with many foods containing GMOs going unlabeled due to loopholes in the law. Shoppers may purchase a food thinking it is non-GMO, when really the product may have GMO ingredients that were just not recognized as such by the government. The bill will undermine the progress we’ve made on setting a high standard for GMO avoidance.
Nearly 2,700 brands have gone through the Non-GMO Project’s independent, third party testing, representing more than 36,000 products. Non-GMO Project Verified remains one of the fastest growing and most trusted seal in the retail sector. This is the power of the consumer. Every purchase you make impacts the non-GMO supply chain with ripples of positive change. Together, we truly are protecting a non-GMO future.
What can we do to help? Take Action Now
Despite the frustration you may be feeling, we must stay unified in our efforts. Email your concerns to President Obama through this petition to veto the bill. Read and share Reverend Jessie Jackson’s letter to the President, opposing the DARK Act. Now is the time to vote with more than our wallets—our collective voices matter. We must fill the White House with the resounding message that we have the right to clearly know if it’s GMO!
Please consider making a donation—we’ve been working since 2007 to successfully establish a consistent and rigorous standard for non-GMO claims. In the coming weeks, the Non-GMO Project will be doing everything in our power to ensure that this bill does not make it past the President.
From all of us at the Non-GMO Project, we appreciate your commitment and your support. United, we will win this food fight!