When grassroots organizations nickname a piece of legislation something like the “DARK Act” (a clever acronym for Deny Americans the Right to Know), it’s never a good sign. This sounds a lot more grim than the official name for the most recent GMO labeling bill, called the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015.”
To sum up what’s going on, this bill, H.R. 1599, recently passed the U.S. House of Representatives with a lot of push from the biotech giant Monsanto. H.R. 1599 specifically targets and overturns any individual state GMO labeling laws, such as the law passed by the state of Vermont to label GMO products in supermarkets, and gives control of GMO labeling to the federal government.
This sets GMO labeling gains back to the previous policy of voluntary disclosure – meaning GMO companies are not in any way required to disclose if their products contain GMOs, but companies can volunteer to register their product as non-GMO. The voluntary labeling law has been in effect for 14 years, and to date no single company has volunteered to disclose anything to the government. Not even one.
To be certified non-GMO you have to go through a verification process. This IS voluntary, but it’s only been health food companies that take the time or spend the money, because yes, to get certified as non-GMO, it costs money.
This is actually part of what would be most frustrating if this bill passes in the Senate because the labeling is being switched to a government certification that will cost more, take more time and mean more red-tape.
Voluntary labeling means that companies who use GMO ingredients would state specifically that it’s “GMO corn” or “GMO strawberries” instead of just corn or strawberries. Nobody has done this yet because they’re afraid of the impact on sales, and because of industry fear and pressure that this might make the consumers think the products are unsafe.
Additionally this law allows GMO foods to be labeled as “natural” and creates both financial and bureaucratic obstacles for companies who choose to use “non-GMO” labeling.
The single ray of hope left is that the bill has not yet been passed by the Senate, so there is still time to make a difference. Call or meet up with both of your state Senators and make a stand if you want only food that actually came from nature to be labeled “natural.”For a fact sheet about the H.R. 1599 bill and quick information about how to easily reach out to your senators, click here.
by Amy Neuzil, ND*
Amy is a naturopathic doctor, teacher, author and speaker.
*Naturopathic doctors are not currently licensed in the state of Texas.