GMO Friendly Bill One Step Closer to Law

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Want to know if GMOs are present in your food? Many Americans hold this information high on their health priority list. If you're one of them, then a bill slowly creeping its way through Congress is of great concern. Those who advocate strict and clear GMO labeling standards are claiming that H.R. 1599 actually weakens GMO labeling, even though it sounds like a positive step toward label clarity. Known as Rep. Mike Pompeo's Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, opponents call it the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act. H.R. 1599 was just passed in the House, moving it one step closer to the President's desk.  The bill, by intending to give the FDA sole jurisdiction over GMO labeling, will “water down” the labeling process, negating current state and municipal rulings on GMO labeling, and give GMO proponents the upper hand when it comes to food labeling. Here’s a little more information on the bill from us.

H.R. 1599 passed in a 275-150 vote on Thursday, and according to Bill Thompson of Politico’s Morning Agriculture, Pompeo has already talked to the Chair of the Senate Ag committee, Pat Roberts, and plans are afoot to create a Senate companion bill this fall.

To follow the bill’s progress, we suggest you go to GovTrack.us, create an account, and set up email alerts on H.R. 1599. 

Supporters tout the efficacy of its labeling process, including House Agriculture Committee Chairman K. Michael Conaway:

H.R. 1599 is the solution to an urgent and growing problem. The current patchwork system of varied labels interferes with the free flow of goods across the country, posing a real threat to interstate commerce and typically results in inconsistent and confusing information for consumers. Creating a uniform national policy regarding biotechnology labeling is the free market solution that will allow consumers access to meaningful information, create market opportunities for those on the production and processing side, and will facilitate future innovation,”

Opponents of the bill worry that it only serves Big Food corporate interests, will hurt small farmers, and will not prevent consumers from really knowing whether or not their food is made with GMOs. National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s blog post on the vote sums up these sentiments nicely:   

Supporters of this bill claim it will eliminate the “patch-work” scenario of GMO labeling laws. If the seed, chemical, and food industry is truly concerned about the patchwork state-by-state approach, then it is unclear why supporters of this bill would not support a uniform federal standard for GMO labeling. A bill to do just that, introduced by Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Peter DeFazio, has languished without even being considered by the relevant committees. Clearly, the House vote today is more about serving the interests of the food industry than it is about providing transparency to consumers and clearing up confusion in the marketplace."

The food industry has something to fear in the Boxer/DeFazio bill. Consumer preference for GMO labeling is extremely high. It may not be quite as simple as public opinion versus the will of Big Food, but it's clear that those of us in the pro-labeling camp for GMOs will lose big if the DARK Act becomes a law. We’ve got our eye on this controversial bill as it continues to slither its way through Congress.

Image via Flickr

Sources:

Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson

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