Americans overwhelmingly want the right to know whether the food they are purchasing has been made with genetically modified ingredients, a right that consumers in 64 other countries already have.
But legislation introduced yesterday by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.) would do almost the opposite, effectively halting all labeling efforts at the state and federal level. Backed by big food and biotechnology corporations that benefit from unlabeled GMO crops and food, the Denying Americans the Right-to-Know or DARK Act, robs states from the ability to require mandatory labels, makes the current failed, voluntary labeling system permanent law, all while making it more difficult to ever require mandatory labeling nationwide.
Simply put, the DARK Act fails to provide consumers with the information they want, and perpetuates consumer confusion on exactly what food products do and do not contain GMO ingredients.
Here are the top 5 problems with the DARK Act:
The DARK Act makes voluntary labeling the law of the land – The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued draft guidance in 2001 stating that manufacturers could voluntarily label their food as being made with the use of bioengineered ingredients, or GMOs. Since then, not a single one of them ever has. The DARK Act seeks to make this failed policy permanent law nationwide.
The DARK Act takes away the rights of states – In addition to finalizing the failed voluntary labeling system, the DARK Act would also prevent states from enacting any of their own laws. That means no state could introduce GMO labeling legislation – even though more than 30 have done so in the past two years -- and laws that have already been enacted in Vermont, Connecticut and Maine would be null and void.
The DARK Act makes it harder to ever require national labeling – The FDA currently has the authority to mandate GMO labeling nationwide, and a legal petition filed in 2011 by the Center for Food Safety -- signed by more than 1.4 million Americans -- calls on the Agency to do just that. But the DARK Act would tie FDA’s hands and restrict its ability from ever being able to mandate labeling nationwide by narrowing the circumstances when FDA could require a disclosure.
The DARK Act creates a “safety” review system, kind of… – Under the DARK Act, companies developing GMOs for human consumption would be required to go through a “safety” review system before their products went to market, but this review is nothing more than window dressing. It relies on industry-based science and sets impossible deadlines for FDA. And if the FDA is unable to make an assessment within 180 days, the food automatically enters commerce.
- The DARK Act protects bogus “natural” label claims – A recently conducted Consumer Reports survey found that 64 percent of consumers think foods labeled “natural” means non-GMO, and 85 percent think that is what it should mean. Unfortunately, and to the surprise of many, a “natural” label means next to nothing on a food label. The DARK Act does require the FDA to define “natural” within two years of enactment, but prevents states from enacting any of their own “natural” labeling laws to prevent consumer deception, and allows for the use of “natural” during this two year window. And ultimately, after two years, the FDA could end up deciding that GMOs could bear this “natural” label.