The U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture voted in favor of the new “DARK Act” yesterday, sending the bill to the Senate floor.
The bill, introduced by Chairman Pat Roberts, is designed to stop the movement for GMO labeling in its tracks- undermining the public’s right to know and states’ rights to inform their citizens about the potential health and environmental implications of the products they buy. Similar legislation passed the House of Representatives this summer.
With Vermont’s labeling law set to be implemented this July, biotech and big food industries are scrambling for a last minute measure to block it. This bill goes even further than preempting Vermont’s law and would have a significant impact in jurisdictions beyond Vermont. According to an analysis by the Center for Food Safety, the Roberts bill would preempt at least 137 existing statutes, regulations and ordinances at the state and municipal level.[i] Some of the laws that would be blocked include Alaska’s labeling requirement for genetically engineered fish and shell fish, as well as Vermont and Virginia’s longstanding GE seed labeling laws.
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy stood among others to denounce the intentions and potential impact of the bill. Leahy pointed to the absence of hearings and discussion of the Senate bill as an affront to Vermont’s democratic process. Vermont’s GMO labeling law, he noted, was passed only after “The Vermont Legislature held 52 committee hearings, and heard 136 presentations of testimony on both sides of the food labeling issue…
I’ll tell you one thing: This legislation, rushed forward without even a hearing, is a solution looking for a non-existent problem. It is a last minute attack on Vermont’s law, and on Vermonters’ right to set priorities at the state government level.”
While it is unclear whether this legislation has enough bipartisan support to pass the Senate, a new mandatory labeling bill is being introduced today from Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) that would require the disclosure of GMO ingredients on Nutrition Facts labels. The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. Leahy.
Please take a minute to add your name to our letter to the U.S. Senate, asking them to protect our right to know.