Food

House Votes to Let Monsanto Deceive Consumers About GMOs

House lawmakers apparently don't care that 93 percent of Americans are in favor of mandatory labeling of GMOs.

Photo Credit: FikMik/Shutterstock.com

On July 23, 275 members of the U.S. House of Representatives voted in favor of H.R. 1599, the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act. By voting for the DARK Act, these politicians voted against truth and transparency, against science, against the more than century-old right of states to legislate on matters relating to food safety and labeling.

They voted against the 93 percent of Americans who are in favor of mandatory labeling of GMOs. They voted against the producers of non-GMO foods.

They voted against you.

Now that the DARK Act has been approved by the House, we’ll have to stop it in the Senate. We have to move fast — because Monsanto is desperate to pass a bill that preempts mandatory GMO labeling laws at the state and federal levels, before Vermont’s GMO labeling law takes effect next year.

H.R. 1599 was sold to Congress via multi-million dollar public relations and lobbying campaigns built on lies and deception. The bill’s sole purpose is to support an industry — Monsanto’s poison-peddling industry — that was founded on lies and deception from the get-go.

Reports show that since 2013, the biotech and food industries have spent $143 million lobbying against GMO labeling at the state and federal level. House members who supported H.R. 1599 took in $29.9 million in contributions from agribusiness and food industries in 2014 alone, according to OpenSecrets.org.

Were the Congress members who voted against you fooled by Monsanto’s slick, deceitful packaging of this so-called “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act”? Or did they simply vote with their wallets, stuffed full of biotech and junk food industry cash?

We don’t know. But we know this: We can’t let this bill get through the U.S. Senate. That’s why we’re asking consumers to reach out, through a petition to Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to help. As a proponent of labeling, a critic of corporate money in politics, a senator from the only state whose GMO labeling law is in imminent danger, and a presidential candidate who is attracting widespread media attention right now, Sanders could draw national attention to this issue. He could influence his fellow senators to reject a Senate version of H.R. 1599. He could filibuster a Senate version, if it gets that far.

TAKE ACTION: Urge Senator Bernie Sanders to speak out against the DARK Act

Less than 24 hours before the July 23 House vote, the industry-funded front group behind H.R. 1599 was still pushing out the lies. The “Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food,” feigning concern for consumers, emailed members urging them to support the DARK Act because if we require mandatory labeling, it will increase the cost of your food by $500/year. That lie has been debunked over and over, by legitimate independent studies. It’s a lie based on a study funded by, and which remains the intellectual property of, the Council for Biotech Information — of which Monsanto is a member.

Less than 24 hours before the House vote, a staffer in the office of the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Mike Pompeo, told a caller that the DARK Act gives consumers what they want: the means to know whether or not their food contains GMOs. “Consumers can choose to presume that all foods have GMO contents unless they are labeled or otherwise presented as non-GMO. Meaning that it is knowable and it is known by the public which products have GMO and which don't,” claimed a Pompeo staffer.

More lies. The DARK Act creates a voluntary, government-run non-GMO certification program. Unless every producer of non-GMO products pays to have those products certified non-GMO, consumers will still have no way of knowing which products contain GMOs, and which don’t. And why should the burden of labeling fall on the producers of non-GMO foods, when the risk factor is associated with those foods that do contain GMOs?

H.R. 1599 would repeal existing state GMO labeling laws, such as Vermont’s Act 120, and would preempt any future state or federal laws requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods or foods containing GMOs. That’s unconstitutional, according to the Campaign for Liberty, which said this in a blog post

Whatever your views on GMOs, there is no Constitutional justification for the federal government to preempt state laws in this area. There certainly is no justification for Congress to preempt private sector efforts to meet consumer demands for non-GMO foods, while allowing those who support the use of GMOs to do so.

Yet 275 members of the U.S. House voted against the U.S. Constitution. And if we don’t stop them, a majority of U.S. senators could do the same.

If we are going to stop the federal government from taking away our right to demand truth and transparency in labeling, we will have to double or triple our size and our impact. Please ask Sen. Bernie Sanders to help us stop this bill in the Senate, and then reach out to your own senators as well.

TAKE ACTION: Urge Senator Bernie Sanders to speak out against the DARK Act

TAKE ACTION: Tell your senators to vote NO on the DARK Act

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Ronnie Cummins is international director of the Organic Consumers Association and its Mexico affiliate, Via Organica

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