The DARK Act makes absolutely no sense, and here's why.
This summer HR Bill 1599 was introduced to Congress. Dubbed the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know) by its opponents, it was reactionary legislation to Vermont, Connecticut and Maine's 2014 laws that made GMO labeling mandatory on food packaging. The DARK Act makes absolutely no sense, and here's why.
GMO means Genetically Modified Organism, and in this instance, is being used to describe agricultural products that have been genetically modified. There is a debate over whether GMOs are good or bad for our health, but that isn't what this bill is about (incidentally, I don't think there is compelling evidence that GMOs are always good or always bad). This bill is about the consumer's right to know whether or not what they are eating contains GMOs. It is a pretty reasonable request for a person to have as much information as possible about the food they are feeding their children so that they can make a decision based on their personal values whether or not they want it. There is a fear from food manufacturers that disclosing that they use GMO foods will:
A. Increase costs
B. Decrease sales.
Part B of that fear may very well be accurate, but consumers should be entitled to know what they are feeding their families more than companies like Monsanto are entitled to gratuitous profits. To be clear, even if they disclose that they are using GMOs in their food, companies will STILL make a whole lot of money.
This bill preempts states from requiring labeling of GMO food. Further, it prohibits states from preventing often inaccurate "natural claims". The bill makes it impossible for the FDA to create a national GMO labeling system. It would also mandate the review system for the safety of GMO food to be based on industry science, which means the people making the food will determine if the food is safe.
*Unrelated to the content of the bill, but speaking to the duplicity of those who wrote it, HR 1599 is technically called "Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015" which would make those casually searching about it think the bill was aiming to increase food labeling. To be clear, that is wildly untrue.
Those reasons are why this bill makes absolutely no sense. States were trying to protect their consumers by require clear labeling of what went into food products sold to their citizens. Monsanto and friends saw this as a threat to business as usual and decided to spend a bunch of money lobbying Congress and the American public to paint themselves as reasonable and their opponents as hippie-rabble rousing left-wingers. It was cleverly done, but at the end of the day very inaccurate. Campaign contributions are likely why most elected officials that support the bill are supporting it.
Around the world, 64 other nations require GMO labeling because just like nutrition and ingredient labeling, it just makes sense. GMO labeling will not increase food prices. Companies change labels regularly for various reasons from new flavors, new logos, updated designs etc. The reason big companies are against this is likely because they fear smaller, truly natural farmers might be able to collectively steal market share when people know what's actually in products. This is why voluntary labeling will not work. Voluntary labeling just leads to consumer confusion, as companies that produce food that is anything but natural can use loopholes and vague language in current laws to label their food as natural.
This isn't an issue of whether GMOs are good or bad. This isn't about natural versus "standard" food production. This is simply an issue about whether or not families should be able to know what is in the food that they buy so they can decide what they want to feed their children. In countries all over the world, people have that ability. It's time we have it in America too.