Keeping Us in the DARK

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When I first heard about the “DARK Act”, I was sure it was part of a plot from a science fiction movie or some other prop dreamed up in Hollywood. In my mind I could see an evil villain sitting behind a big desk, gleefully rubbing his hands together while cackling at the idea of preventing people from knowing what was in the food they were eating. The reality is not too far off from what I imagined.

The DARK or “Deny Americans the Right to Know” Act, was introduced to Congress by Representatives Mike Pompeo (R-KS) and G.K. Butterfield (D-NC). Officially called the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015”, this bill aims to block both the FDA and individual states from requiring labels on GMO and GE foods. The bill was initially introduced to Congress last year but was unable to garner the necessary support. Among the provisions of this bill are:

• Any labeling of food containing bioengineered ingredients or GMO’s would be voluntary and at the discretion of the manufacturer. The FDA issued guidance fourteen years ago asserting that manufacturers could voluntarily label their food as being made with the use of GE ingredients or GMO’s. Surprisingly, no manufacturer has chosen to do this.

• States would no longer have the right to enact their own laws with regards to labeling of GE food. No state could introduce GMO labeling legislation, and in states where such legislation has already been passed the laws would be void.

• The FDA would no longer have the authority to mandate nationwide GMO labeling. They could only require disclosure of GMO ingredients if there was a substantial difference in the nutrition or safety of a food – for example, if the GMO food could contain an allergen not commonly found in the that food.

• The requirement that companies complete a “safety” review system prior to placing their products on the market. This review can be based on industry-based science and allows the food to enter the market after a certain time period regardless of FDA assessment.

• GE and GMO food would be able to be labeled “natural”. The FDA would have two years to decide exactly what “natural” means, but during that time (and possibly after, depending on the FDA’s decision) bioengineered food could bear the “natural” label.

In spite of the fact that when polled, a majority of Americans show time and time again that they are in favor of labeling for GMO and GE food, our politicians choose not to listen. Currently 64 other countries require the labeling of bioengineered food. The Environmental Working Group has an online petition that you can complete and submit to your member of Congress. Non-GMO foods can be found using the search feature at http://greenestbeans.com/portal/search.php.

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