On Thursday, a majority of the House of Representatives voted in favour of a bill making mandatory GMO labeling ‘illegal’
The bill (H.R. 1599) dubbed the “DARK Act” (Deny Americans the Right to Know) by its critics, overturns state-level laws that require foods containing genetically modified organisms to be labeled.
It was backed by the food industry, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Monsanto which have poured millions into defeating GMO labeling initiatives.
It must now be voted on by the Senate, which is the last hope for defeating the bill. If Congress decides to pass the notorious ‘DARK Act,’ it would stop all mandatory GMO labeling initiatives around the United States.
Republican Mike Pompeo of Kansas, the bill’s primary sponsor said: “Mandatory labeling of genetically engineered products has no basis in legitimate health or safety concerns, but is a naked attempt to impose the preferences of a small segment of the populace on the rest of us”
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One procedural amendment from Colorado representative Jared Polis proposed changing the title of the bill from the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 to the Deny Americans the Right to Know act. The “DARK act” is the rallying cry for opponents of the bill, who say the bill makes it more difficult for Americans to decide for themselves whether or not to eat GMOs. The proposed name change was not adopted, and an amendment to prohibit the use of the term “natural” on foods containing GMOs also failed.
The bill establishes a new USDA voluntary program for GMO-free labeling, similar to the existing organic program. It also prevents state from requiring food manufacturers to state whether or not their products contain GMOs. So far only Vermont has such a law, although labeling is being debated in many other states.
Some supporters of the bill say that those who want to avoid food containing GMOs may do so already by eating certified organic food. “This bill doesn’t deny any consumer the right to know,” Mike Pompeo, the bill’s sponsor, said during the debate.
The food industry has pushed for the bill, saying that a patchwork of state-by-state labeling laws could drive the cost of food up.
In order for federal GMO labeling standards to go into effect, they must also be approved by the Senate. “We’re confident the Senate will defeat the DARK Act,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president of government affairs for Environmental Working Group, which has strongly opposed the bill.