By Heather Callaghan
We regret to inform you that President Barack Obama signed into law, S. 764, which was the newest manifestation of the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know).
The DARK Acts were a way to establish federal labeling – i.e. the lack of GM labeling – and would banish all state labeling initiatives under a federal standard. A brief press release by the White House simply mentioned a list of bills and S. 764, “which directs the Secretary of Agriculture to establish a national mandatory bioengineered food disclosure standard,” was listed at the end. The “disclosure standard” must be an inside joke, because the disclosure involves the consumer having to scan a QR code on a food product to find out about genetically modified ingredients, or call a 1-800 number. These measures might not even happen for another five years.
The federal measure authored by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS) and Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and fast-tracked by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (no committee, no debate) has now quelled all state efforts for clear text labeling of genetically modified organisms in food. This writer wonders whether the state labeling initiatives purposely held off their labeling efforts until 2018 – 2016 at the earliest – in anticipation of this federal measure. After all, the Senators received millions from Big Agri. Read about the tricky business involved in ramming this measure through.
Center for Food Safety reports:
Consumer, food safety, farm, environmental, and religious groups along with several food corporations representing hundreds of thousands of Americans condemned the bill when it was before Congress. The FDA said the bill’s narrow and ambiguous definition of “bioengineering,” would “likely mean that many foods from GE sources will not be subject to this bill” and that it “may be difficult” for any GMO food to qualify for labeling under the bill.
The Consumerist notes of the bill:
It also directs the Secretary of Agriculture to eventually — at some point in two to three years — come up with a national labeling standard.
However, that standard could be incredibly weak and provide virtually no information to consumers, argue opponents of the law.
[A loophole]… says food products receiving these labels must contain “genetic material.” By the FDA’s reckoning, that would seem to exempt products like oils, starches, and purified proteins even if they were sourced from GE crops.
The law also says that an item is only to be labeled as genetically modified if the modification could not have occurred through “conventional breeding.” The FDA raised concerns that the lack of specificity in the language could open this term up to an overly generous reading.
Just Label It claims that the law allows the USDA to determine what GMO information is provided through the voluntary labeling system and will make it harder for companies like Campbell’s Soup to voluntarily disclose the presence of GMOs. They also claimed that the law would deny local governments from being able to protect farmers and rural residents from the environmental impacts of GMO crops.
Andy Kimbell, executive director at the Center for Food Safety said:
I don’t know what kind of legacy the president hopes to leave, but denying one-third of Americans the right to know what is in the food they feed their families isn’t one to be proud of. This law is a sham and a shame, a rushed backroom deal that discriminates against low-income, rural, minority and elderly populations. The law also represents a major assault on the democratic decision making of several states and erases their laws with a vague multi-year bureaucratic process specifically designed to provide less transparency to consumers.
Indeed, deliberately hiding crucial food information from low-income people – or any American citizen is an act of discrimination in the highest. One that our government has pulled off many times before, standing by as people are unwittingly exposed to some type of toxin.
In the face of so much opposition when it comes to labeling, it’s easy to think, what now, it’s time to give up – If we demand GM labeling, then the companies will refer us to a number or code.
Keep demanding for clear labels! And remind them that the average could not possibly scan each code or call each number of every label. We are talking about an important ingredient – the very make-up of the engineered plant itself, and Americans deserve to know. If labels are this convoluted and shrouded then the consumer can refuse to buy – which is the best food choice they can make anyway.
Remember how Big Food and the Grocers Manufacturer Association claimed that a label would be too confusing, too costly and too scary for consumers – oh, the irony!
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