Last week, the House of Representatives voted to pass the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014” which opponents tried to rename the “Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act” due to the fact that it is designed to override a state’s right to require labeling of genetically modified food.
The bill has many sections which try to show a heightened level of concern for pre-market genetically modified organisms, but once the food clears these pre-market hurdles, the part of the bill that causes the most concern for activists is below:
“SEC. 424. Notification relating to certain bioengineered organisms.
“(e) Labeling.—If the Secretary determines that there is a material difference between a food produced from, containing, or consisting of a bioengineered organism and its comparable marketed food and that disclosure of such difference is necessary to protect health and safety or to prevent the label or labeling of such food from being false or misleading, the Secretary may, in a response under subsection (d)(2)(A), specify labeling that would adequately inform consumers of such material difference. The use of bioengineering does not, by itself, constitute a material difference.”
The above excerpted from Congress.gov.
The above paragraph basically equates genetically modified food to non-gmo food for labeling purposes. Therefore, the consumer is not given the ability to distinguish between the two foods.
Many countries around the world routinely label their food if it has been modified by genetic engineers. Why is this such an unbearable hardship in the US?
What’s even more interesting is that according to the site MediaMatters.org, during the time this bill was moving to the floor of the House, there was almost no major media coverage of this event. This is particularly odd given that it’s estimated that over 85% of American’s would support this type of labeling.
Check out more insight from MediaMatters.org below:
In recent weeks, major broadcast networks and primetime cable news programs have completely ignored debate and passage of a House bill that would prevent states and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from requiring labels for foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Consumer rights advocates, environmental groups, and the vast majority of Americans support the right to know whether foods contain GMOs.
EWG: House Voted To “Deny Americans The Right To Know What’s In Their Food.” In a statement on the Environmental Working Group’s website, EWG Senior Vice President of Government Affairs Scott Faber said:
It’s outrageous that some House lawmakers voted to ignore the wishes of nine out of 10 Americans. … Today’s vote to deny Americans the right to know what’s in their food and how it’s grown was a foregone conclusion. This House was bought and paid for by corporate interests, so it’s no surprise that it passed a bill to block states and the FDA from giving consumers basic information about their food. [EWG, 7/23/15]
Union of Concerned Scientists: GMO Foods Should Be Labeled So “Consumers Can Make Informed Decisions.” In a section of its website devoted to “Genetic Engineering in Agriculture,” the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) stated that policy makers should “[s]upport food labeling laws that require foods containing [genetically engineered or GE] crops to be clearly identified as such, so that consumers can make informed decisions about supporting GE applications in agriculture.” UCS also said that although the risks from genetic engineering “are often exaggerated or misrepresented,” GE crops still “have the potential to cause a variety of health problems and environmental impacts”:
While the risks of genetic engineering are often exaggerated or misrepresented, GE crops do have the potential to cause a variety of health problems and environmental impacts. For instance, they may spread undesirable traits to weeds and non-GE crops, produce new allergens and toxins, or harm animals that consume them.
At least one major environmental impact of genetic engineering has already reached critical proportions: overuse of herbicide-tolerant GE crops has spurred an increase in herbicide use and an epidemic of herbicide-resistant “superweeds,” which will lead to even more herbicide use.
How likely are other harmful GE impacts to occur? This is a difficult question to answer. Each crop-gene combination poses its own set of risks. While risk assessments are conducted as part of GE product approval, the data are generally supplied by the company seeking approval, and GE companies use their patent rights to exercise tight control over research on their products.
In short, there is a lot we don’t know about the long-term and epidemiological risks of GE–which is no reason for panic, but a good reason for caution, particularly in view of alternatives that are more effective and economical. [Union of Concerned Scientists, accessed 7/24/15]
Associated Press Poll: Strong Majority Of Americans Support GMO Labeling. On January 13, the Associated Press reported that a December AP-GfK poll found that “66 percent of Americans favor requiring food manufacturers to put labels on products that contain genetically modified organisms, or foods grown from seeds engineered in labs. Only 7 percent are opposed to the idea, and 24 percent are neutral.” The AP added that the portion of Americans who say it is very or extremely important to know whether a product contains GMOs is “higher than the share who say it’s important to know whether a food is organic, and about on par with the share saying they consider the amount of protein in a food an important factor.” [Associated Press, 1/13/15]
Other Polls Show Even Higher Support For Mandatory GMO Labeling. Recent results from polls in six key states conducted for the Environmental Working Group and the Just Label It campaign found public support for mandatory GMO labeling ranging from 79 percent to 89 percent. An April 2014 poll from Consumer Reports found that 92 percent of consumers think that genetically engineered foods should have to be labeled. And a New York Times poll from 2013 found that 93 percent of respondents believe foods containing GMOs should be identified as such. [EWG, 7/21/15; Consumer Reports National Research Center, 2014; The New York Times, 7/27/13]
*According to a Nexis search of GMO or “genetically modified” for all news shows on PBS, CBS, ABC, NBC, and the primetime news shows on MSNBC, Fox News, and CNN, from when the bill began to be marked up by the House Agriculture Committee on July 14 until the time of this publication.