Critics of a food labeling bill recently passed by the House fear that it could be added as a last-minute provision to the looming federal budget bill.
Known as the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act to supporters and the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act by critics, the law would effectively nullify Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) labeling measures like the bill recently passed in Vermont. The Vermont law is scheduled to go into effect July 2016. Maine and Connecticut have also passed laws requiring labeling, but those measures will not go into effect until bordering states also pass legislation.
Genetically modified or engineered seeds are engineered to have certain traits, such as resistance to herbicides. The majority of the United States’ corn and soybean crops are now GE, including a large portion which goes to animal feed.
The labeling act would create a federal voluntary standard for GMO labeling and block mandatory labeling efforts by states. The AP reports that “the food industry wants the labeling to be voluntary, and it hopes to get a provision in a massive spending bill that Republicans and Democrats want to wrap up this week.”
“It is imperative that Congress take action now to prevent a costly and confusing patchwork of state labeling laws from taking effect next year and spreading across the country,” a coalition of groups representing growers and the food industry said in a letter to House and Senate leaders.
Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, told the AP, “We have a lot of folks on our side of the aisle that are very opposed.” Sen John Hoeven of (R-ND) said he is “trying to come up with a compromise that brings both sides together, and it doesn’t seem like we’ll have that by year-end.”
Reuters reports that a vote on the budget will happen on Friday before the midnight deadline for funding the federal government. According to Reuters, “lawmakers have been unable to reach agreement on a number of policy “riders” some lawmakers would like to add to the bill.” These “riders” include the DARK Act provision.
In response to the criticism of the DARK Act, the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture Nutrition & Forestry recently held a hearing titled Agriculture Biotechnology: A Look at Federal Regulation and Stakeholder Perspectives.
The committee heard testimonies from several speakers representing farmers, the GMO lobby, and consumer groups. Officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Environmental Protection Agency also testified. The hearing was criticized for being one-sided and favoring corporations who will directly benefit from the passage of the bill.
As Reuters reported, “the Consumers Union and five other consumer organizations sent a letter to the Senate committee complaining that the lineup of speakers was not balanced and did not include a consumer representative.” Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union said, “Time and again, a large majority of consumers have expressed strong support for GMO labeling.”
Ronnie Cummins, international director for the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and a speaker at the hearing, released a scathing review of the events. “Today’s hearing on H.R. 1599 made a total mockery of democracy. Of the eight witnesses allowed to testify, only one could be remotely considered as someone who represents the interests of consumers and public health,” Cummins said. “The other seven have ties to the biotech and corporate food industries, and were there to represent the interests of corporations, not people.”
Please stay tuned to TruthInMedia.com for development on this story and the “government shutdown.”