GMO Right to Know: Senate Vote To Decide if Americans Get Left in the DARK

Seattle, Washington (TFC) -Dubbed the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act by opponents, a bill created by Tea Party Republican Mike Pompeo of Kansas, is awaiting a Senate vote after passing through the House in July. Officially titled the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, the bill proposes that the Food and Drug Administration should have the ultimate power over the labeling of genetically modified foods. According to Congress.gov, the bill proclaims:

“The FDA may require a GMO food to have a label that informs consumers of a material difference between the GMO food and a comparable food if the disclosure is necessary to protect public health and safety or to prevent the label from being false or misleading. The use of a GMO does not, by itself, constitute a material difference.”

While GMO proponents, the biotechnology industry, and Forbes.com all declare the debate about GMO safety over, many activists, environmentalists, medical professionals, and citizens are still doubtful. Anti-GMO organizations blame biotech for a number of issues: superweeds, rising autism rates, obesity in children, and the appearance of new and difficult to treat autoimmune disorders. Many point their fingers at Monsanto – an agrochemical company whose name has become synonymous with corporate evil – their multimillion dollar annual lobbying budget, their practice of treating seeds as proprietary technology, and the former Monsanto executive and lobbyist, Michael Taylor, who today acts as deputy Commissioner of Foods at the FDA, as the culprit.

Image Source: Flickr, David Goehring

Image Source: Flickr, David Goehring

Overall, Americans are confused and concerned about GMO foods. A 2013 telephone poll conducted by the New York Times indicated that as many as 93 percent of Americans believed that GMOs should be labeled, and three-quarters of those polled expressed concerns about these new foods. The pro camp points to thousands of peer-reviewed research studies proclaiming the environmental and food safety of common genetically modified crops, while the no camp points out that any scientific research suggesting GMO safety concerns are rigorously attacked and the scientists who conduct them often do so to the detriment of their own careers.

The deep pockets of the food industry have spent millions to defeat state-led GMO labeling bills in California, Washington, Oregon, and Colorado. Voters in Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont recently passed laws to label GMOs. The law passed in Vermont requires all products which contain GMOs to be labeled by July of 2016, although the state has already been sued by the Grocery Manufacturers Association. Now the impending DARK Act promises to trump both state law and consumer concerns.

With the future of nationwide GMO labeling coming up for Senate vote this week, many natural health and anti-GMO activism organizations are pleading their cause and urging voters to contact their senators and make their voices heard. Labeling seems like an easily applicable and reasonable compromise between consumers who want to avoid GMOs and the companies who want to proceed with research and development. Unabashedly denying industry and science the room to explore new technologies is un-capitalistic; however, restricting labeling information that is warranted and sought by the public is a completely unethical power play by the agrochemical lobby interests.