Think labeling GMOs on your food is a good idea? You might want to tune in to C-Span next week.
The US Senate will vote soon on the ironically named Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which would actually ban states from passing GMO labeling laws. (Opponents have dubbed it the DARK Act, or Denying Americans the Right to Know.) The vote could be as soon as Monday or Tuesday, according to Gary Hirshberg, the cofounder of Stonyfield and a major player in the organic foods industry. The House of Representatives already passed a similar bill, so this is the last step in making the potential law a reality.
But, statistics show, consumers—89 percent of them—do want to know what they’re ingesting. And thousands of chefs support labeling as well: Nearly 4,000 signed star chef Tom Colicchio’s petition to urge the Senate to vote it down, The Daily Meal reports.
“People want their foods labeled,” says Max Goldberg, an organic food activist and founder of Living Maxwell. “But politicians are denying us that right. They’re not voting based on the demands of the people. They’re going to deny citizens their right to know what’s in their food.”
The bill was introduced by Republican Senator Pat Roberts of Kansas and is backed by trade organizations like the Corn Refiners Association and Grocery Manufacturers Association (which represents major food and beverage companies), who say labeling would be costly for the industry, and ultimately, consumers, EcoWatch reports.
Undeniably, this is bad for all the label-reading lovers out there.
But what else is the bill all about? Here’s our cheat sheet.
1. The bill would invalidate state laws that are already on the books.
It would reverse the passing of the first GMO labeling law in the country, which is set to go into effect in Vermont July 1. (Connecticut and Maine also passed labeling laws, but they both have provisions limiting their implementation unless other states have similar regulations.)
2. If passed, existing restrictions on the planting of GMOs would be removed.
Right now, according to Goldberg, there are around 150 restrictions on the planting of GMOs throughout the country. This helps prevent contamination between GMO and organic farms. “Contamination happens because of bees or the drift in the wind,” Goldberg explains. “And without restrictions, a GMO farm can easily contaminate an organic farm. So if you’re an organic farmer growing crops, you might—by no fault of your own—end up losing your organic certification because of what’s nearby.” It’s incredibly difficult, if not impossible, for GMO and organic farms to coexist, Goldberg says.
3. The bill includes provisions for promoting GMOs as healthy.
“Voting in favor of the DARK Act would have horrible consequences for food, including less transparency of labeling and the education that GMOs are good,” Hirshberg said Friday. The bill includes provisions to teach consumers that there are good GMO foods, a claim Goldberg calls preposterous. “GMOs are very harmful, period,” he says. “The bill is going to fund propaganda.”
4.The bill expands the definition of “natural” to include GMOs.
“Natural” doesn’t mean that much already, admittedly, but if a state wanted to define it to exclude GMOs, this bill prevents that from happening, according to Civil Eats.
Want to get involved? Whether you’re in favor of or against the DARK Act, the most effective way to take action is to reach out to your state’s Senators and make your voice heard. And let us know what you think in the Comments!
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