[Update: Late in the night on July 7, the Senate voted to pass this latest version of the DARK Act. The bill will now move to the House.]
You heard right, a new version of legislation to undermine GMO labeling is moving quickly through the Senate. Lauded as a “compromise” by supporters, this bill would preempt state rights to label genetically engineered (GE) foods — starting with Vermont's first-in-the-nation law that just went into effect on July 1.
In the place of clear, on-product labels, the Senate compromise — put together by Senators Pat Roberts (D-KS) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) — would require companies to include a QR code on their packaging with the words “scan here for more food information.” There would be no mention of GMOs. And only people with access to smartphones would be able to read the QR code linking off to additional information. It would take the same amount of ink to simply note whether or not GE ingredients are included, right?
As noted by Tom Philpott in Mother Jones, “The Senate deal is widely viewed as a defeat for labeling advocates and a victory for the seed/pesticide industry.”
Indeed. Big Ag has a strong record opposing efforts to label GE food, with Monsanto and friends investing millions in recent years to defeat ballot initiatives in California, Washington and Oregon and beyond.
In the House, Representative Mike Pompeo (R-KS) introduced what opponents dubbed the “Denying America's Right to Know Act” — or “DARK Act.” Despite very strong public opposition, the House passed Pompeo's bill last year. Senator Roberts followed suit months later, but his bill failed to garner enough support.
So how is it that we're currently facing yet another version of the DARK Act? It seems industry turned up the heat on legislators as the start date of Vermont's labeling law drew near. And the QR code compromise was born. As reported in the CT Mirror, more than “1,000 agribusinesses and food companies signed a letter in support of the bill.”
A Senate floor vote is expected any time. And if the cloture vote earlier this week is any indication, there is solid support across the aisle.
Stay tuned for opportunities to get engaged moving forward! If this bad bill passes through the Senate, we'll need to send a loud and clear message to our Representatives that we have a right to know what's in our food — and how it's grown.