Soybean fields rows in summer season

On July 29th, 2016, President Obama signed off on a historically discriminatory and fatally flawed GMO labeling bill. In the wake of the signing, many of us are feeling defeated and heartbroken. This new legislation was created with a single purpose in mind—to destroy the incredible grassroots momentum of powerful GMO labeling bills put forward by hundreds of thousands of activists in more than 30 states. Most notably, the nation’s first meaningful mandatory GMO labeling legislation, which went into effect July 1 in Vermont, has effectively been snuffed out. Replacing it, the new “DARK Act” prescribes a two-year void followed by unenforceable, vague and poorly written rules that at best require 800 numbers and QR codes—codes that can’t be accessed by the 100 million Americans who don’t own expensive smart phones. After five years of incredible momentum built by countless individuals and organizations that believe Americans have the same right to know as citizens in the 64 other countries that require real GMO labeling, this is indeed a dark day.

In spite of the darkness, though, there is still sun shining through. The non-GMO movement is a fire too strong to extinguish, and it’s a good day to recognize a couple of the powerful ways in which our momentum will continue.

The mandatory labeling movement has achieved unimaginable success in raising awareness about the GMO issue. In the past few years, national media attention and the corresponding public understanding inspired by state labeling efforts have brought a once obscure term—GMO—into the spotlight. When we started the Non-GMO Project 10 years ago, it always took me a few minutes to explain what I did, because only rarely had my audience ever heard of genetic engineering. Fast forward to a 2014 Consumer Reports survey in which 72% of Americans say it’s important to them to avoid GMOs when they shop. Knowledge is power, and this public awakening is shifting the scales in a way that can’t be undone, even by this horrendous bill. Our elected officials have utterly failed to represent the will of the people this time around, but they can’t stop the deep sincerity with which Americans are now pursuing information and choices when it comes to GMOs.

This brings us to our next ray of light, and it’s a big one. We all vote with our wallets every time we shop, and collectively we DO have the power to change the way our food is grown and made. This is the premise that the Non-GMO Project was founded on a decade ago, and it is indeed proving to be powerful. As the availability of non-GMO food choices skyrockets, GMO crops are on the decline for the first time since their introduction.

The Project’s nonprofit mission is to preserve and build sources of non-GMO products, educate consumers, and provide verified non-GMO choices. We decided long ago that the most pragmatic and effective way to do this is to leverage the power of the marketplace. When we were first thinking about strategy back in 2006, we didn’t feel like we could afford to wait for the government to take action, and we didn’t trust that the government would ever adequately represent our interests. So we set out to protect non-GMO food in a different way, by creating a system by which food companies could meet the consumer demand for non-GMO choices, thereby changing the supply chain and preserving safe, healthy food for future generations. In 2007, the Non-GMO Project created North America’s first third party standard, certification and label for non-GMO. Since then, our strategy has proven effective beyond what we ever could have imagined.

There are nearly 2,700 brands in the Non-GMO Project’s Product Verification Program, and more than 36,000 products that have been Verified to our rigorous standard. Collectively, these products represent more than $16 billion in annual sales. That’s still small in the scope of overall U.S. food sales (just over 1%), but it’s a lot for a label that started trickling into the market just six years ago. And the growth is exponential. What started as a niche project for organic and natural products is now spreading into the mainstream market. Conventional brands are seeking the Non-GMO Project Verified Butterfly at a rapidly accelerating rate, which is momentous for our mission of growing the non-GMO supply chain.

Ensuring access to non-GMO choices necessitates the conversion of North American acreage to non-GMO agriculture at sufficient scale. When big, conventional brands come on board and massively overhaul their sourcing and production practices, the impact to farmland is incredible. As an example, consider Danone, which made a pledge in July to seek Non-GMO Project verification for all products in the Dannon, Oikos and Danimals brands. Achieving this goal will require the conversion of 80,000 acres of cropland from GMO production to non-GMO production—enough to feed 45,000 cows. That’s a lot of impact, and it is happening entirely because of consumer demand, and in spite of anything the government does or doesn’t do. Because it’s going to take a couple of years to create this new supply chain and earn the Butterfly, Danone has also pledged to label any GMO ingredients in the meantime. Similar pledges from Campbell’s and Mars point to the opportunity for brands to lead the way in voluntarily providing the clear, on-pack disclosure that the DARK Act has blocked from becoming mandatory.

No one can argue that we all have a right to know what’s in the food we’re eating and feeding to our families. That’s what the mandatory labeling movement is all about, and the violation of this simple right to know is what makes the passage of the DARK Act so reprehensible.

While the Non-GMO Project has always supported mandatory labeling efforts, I have to admit that I care about more than just the right to know. I wouldn’t be satisfied with a grocery store where every product said, “Produced with genetic engineering,” which is one potential outcome of a strictly right to know tactic. Like many other concerned citizens who have been working on this issue for a decade or more, what I actually care about is having choices— specifically, non-GMO choices. I believe that preserving and building the non-GMO supply chain is a critical step of transitioning toward a safe, healthy food supply for future generations. I also believe that the integrity of our diverse genetic inheritance is essential to human and environmental health and ecological harmony.

I want every person in this country, regardless of where they live or how much money they make, to be able to easily identify and afford non-GMO choices. Every day, as more people seek out the Butterfly and companies of all types and sizes do the hard work to earn it, we are moving toward that vision. Your choices are powerful, your voice in the marketplace is loud. Bask in that sunshine a little, and let’s carry on. The earth and our children will thank us.

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37 Comments

Christian Blankenship

Thank you, thank you for all the hard and amazing work you’ve done. We will continue the fight !

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St. McDuck

Beautifully stated. When our government fails us (yet again), we should always remember that we have the power to change things ourselves.

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Robbie Kerr

We buy only organic food, we eat a plant based whole food diet, when we buy we always look for the butterfly, very seldom do we buy if it does not have the butterfly.

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Judith Fine-Sarchielli

Betrayal once again by our own president. Maybe he made a deal to get something more important to everyone a yes? We need more citizen person-to person education and communication with our grocers. Support our farmers markets.

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Dorothy Curnow

Again , our Congress has not listened to we the people , whom they are supposed to represent! Instead they line their pockets with payouts from Big Chemical Companies . I honestly don’t know how they can look in the mirror and see such disrespect to their fellow mankind . May they rot in Hell for what they have done !

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JANET SKOKAN

I just do not believe that our government is so corrupt (well maybe I can) I would bet many of these GMO pushers do not eat the fake unhealthy food. I can’t even use the word food for GMO’S!!!!!!

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Susan Conley

I personally would like all foods to be non GMO . I think labeling should be mandatory. And I think that beauty products should also be toxic chemical free. We should have the right to healthy products. We elect representatives to represent us and when we can’t even buy healthy products we are certainly not being represented very well.

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Shirline

Wonderful article and very informative. This stuff, both political and otherwise, that has been shoved down the throats of the Americans is disgraceful. We should be better than that. As the most powerful country in the world we should be leading in the right direction. Instead, other countries are far ahead of us in protecting their people. Hang in there. Where there is a will there is a way. We sill soon be running our country, hopefully, by a caring Republican.

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Susan Mancuso

Thank Goodness for The Butterfly-“The Non GMO Project”
We must continue to vote with our dollars and spread the word to others. We cannot give in to large corporate pressure. It is imperative that we preserve the integrity of our food supply for future generations!!

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Lane Goetsch

Thank you for a calm, upbeat response to an emotional moment of seeming defeat. Our food affects us all, regardless of the many ways in which we diverge. It should never have been a political issue. But, as both politics and science have been corrupted in this issue, the marketplace will our greatest weapon in taking back control of our food. I have faith we will win.

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Orly

Thanks for a great article. We could use a little uplifting right now.
It’s clear we have to look out for ourselves-.

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Jennifer Flood

So very, very disappointing – what was the President thinking?? But, even more determined now to seek out organic/non gmo options. Thank you for all your hard work.

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Laurie De Santis-Staschik

Exactly!! Vote with your wallet it is the only power that is listen to so USE YOUR POWER consciously!

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Janis Ezack

Dear Congress,
I demand that the Dark Act is repealed and removed from the books of D.C.

As a registered, active voter, I am following the outcome of the Dark Act. If the Dark Act is not repealed I will vote for new members of Congress during the 2018 mid-term election. Members of Congress, we the people are watching you.

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Mrs Rogerssriffers70@gmail.com

Knowledge is Power! Congress has blocked our right to know! Public is watching your work.

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Lance Phillips

The blog comments made me feel a bit better, but I do feel sad about passage of the DARK Act. Politicians constantly talk about “the children,” but have no qualms about our food supply? I’m an older person living in a small town in the South. No one in my social circle thinks GMOs are harmful. Between this issue and my thinking EMFs from wireless technology are harmful, I sometimes feel like I’m a “freak.” I think that many of us are going to be developing diseases that folks have never seen, and I wonder what will be blamed for it all instead of the controlling giant corporations who are working so feverishly for “our own good”?

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Rob

People this is a good thing. As mentioned by others, a label on everything saying it’s GMO really serves no purpose – we already no which crops are GMO and it still doesn’t get rid of them. If each and every one of us stopped buying EVERYTHING from the big food manufacturers i.e. General Foods, Kellogg’s, Kraft, PepsiCo etc etc, companies would change overnight when they see their profits decline. YOU already have the power to change the way your food is made but you need to take some initiative and change your buying habits and stop buying their crap.

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Syn Kephart

If consumers refuse to buy unless the product has the non-gmo butterfly label the producers will get the message. The dollar-bottom line is all they care about.

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Sabrina Gonzalez

Thank you so much for all that you do and continue to do for healthy food!

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Jennifer LeComte

Dear Congress,
Injustice provails! I demand the Dark Act be repealed.
I am following the outcome of the Dark Act and I will be voting for new a Congress in 2018. A Congress that responds to the people they represent and are not in the pockets of big business.
Members of Congress, We the people are watching you.

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Gerard Stockmeyer

There is great power in this positive message. It’s hard not to feel defeated in our struggle for a healthy planet and our right to make choices in what we eat and what type of agriculture we want to support but as this article points out we are indeed NOT defeated. In fact this may help focus our efforts in a direction out of the control of politics to the more powerful collective power of the consumer.

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Paula Shick

Thank you so much for all the info you share. The best way for the consumer to get what we want is to get in the pockets of big business.

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David

President Obama would turn this into a socialist country if he could. I’m sorry but when he does things like this Dark Act it just burns me up! GMO’s aka genetically modified, are simply put, unnatural and as such do not break down properly in our bodies, which in and of itself is unhealthy. Moreover, your not going to get the vitamins and minerals that you would be getting from a normal vegetable or fruit. Look into the companies behind the research and development of the seeds that are being altered and you will see huge conglomerates. I’m not going to call names. There is so much money involved in this stuff that most of us normal everyday citizens couldn’t even begin to get our heads around these sums of money! Were talking about dirty business folks. If it was up to me I would clean house in D.C. From top to bottom. Sure there are a few good apples in the bunch, but they are so hemmed in by the crooks that their hands are tied and they cannot act anyway. This is our faults. We have become complacent and these politicians that never do what they promise once elected have got to go! The only way that will happen is if we stick together. United we stand, divided we fall. They love seeing us arguing and fighting over race, religion, sex, same sex marriages, etc. etc. etc. As long as we keep worrying about all of our creature comforts were not focused on the really big problems. Like allowing a bunch of thugs in $1000.00 dollar suits to dictate what we can and cannot do while their getting richer and more powerful. Look at the coming election, and the choices were stuck with. It’s a shame. What does Hillary or Donald need? Certainly not money. Power can be intoxicating. Furthermore, what happens to all the money they have sacked away when the U.S. economy crashes? It will be nothing more then the linen its printed on. I’d love to know how much of these fat cats assets are precious metals rather then the American dollar like most of us regular folks? I wonder how many Americans can even recite of “Pledge to the Flag” ? You know, I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America.

God Bless America

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Dalis

If the stores carry these products that use barcodes only, can’t they be made to have several barcode scanners so people without smart phones know what ingredients are in the foods they buy? They should make the companies and government pay for them since they passed this law.

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Lou B

I liked the positive spin in your article, but it sounds like you’ve accepted the Dark Act as a act perpetrated by elected officials, with no consequence to pay. Why not name names, and enable a possible grass-roots backlash against the offenders?
Otherwise, this is just another “Oh well, poor us Citizens!” story, that will fade with the next shiny “News” bauble that we’re constantly spoon fed.

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Julie Weiner

Another vote-with-your-wallet effort: The Organic Consumers Association has a boycott app so we can avoid products made by companies that supported the Dark Act!

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