[HCCN] The DARK Act is back and worse than ever, may be passed imminently

Dick Atlee atlee at dickatlee.com
Wed Jun 29 12:00:08 EDT 2016

Those of you on email lists of organic or food-safety groups may already 
know, but the anti-GMO-labeling DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act 
resurfaced in the Senate last week after having been defeated in March, and 
it is worse than ever.

For those concerned about GMOs and the fact that this bill will outlaw all 
state and local labeling bills, including our limited one and Vermont's 
specific one scheduled to go into effect in two days (which is the real 
target of this bill), I'd strongly recommend calling Senators King and 
Collins (202-224-5344 and 2523). They voted against consideration of the 
last stealth version of the Act, and should be told to absolutely vote 
against this version. The previous version was S.2609; this one hasn't been 
numbered yet, as far as I have been able to tell, but "DARK Act" is 
understood by everyone in Congress.

The people to talk to on this, if you can get through:

King: Marge Kilkelly
Collins: Jill Carney

To give you some of the salient points, I'll include below the text of the 
letter I've written to the MDIslander (hopefully Earl will put it in this 
week, since it may be too late next week). For a more complete coverage of 
the DARK Act and its various versions, please see http://dickatlee.com/dark

The main problems to point out are:

* The failure to provide clear on-package labeling at the federal level
   while killing all state/local attempts to have it.
* The fact that the labeling techniques are specifically designed to make
   knowing the GMO content difficult to determine (why are they hiding???)
* The fact that it doesn't cover the newer GE technologies
* The lack of any penalties for violation or (for the next two years)
   information about what the definition of "contains GMOs" is.


PS: The poison pill in this bill is that the ONLY foods that will be 
allowed to be identified as non-GMO are organic foods. Since "organic" has 
always meant non-GMO, you would think the organic food industry would have 
no trouble opposing the bill, since its no skin off their nose and it goes 
on to present major problems with the GMO issue. But the Organic Trade 
Association and major organic producers have come out IN FAVOR(!) of the 
bill -- an absolutely incomprehensible stab in the back of exactly the 
people who want organic foods.

Darker DARK Act

Monsanto and Big Food are relentless. They never give up. After numerous 
Senate defeats in trying to pass their hide-the-GMOs DARK Act, they're back 
again. This time it's a "compromise" version worse than all the others, 
deliberately mistitled a "mandatory labeling" bill.

The main point of this bill is to kill any existing or future state GMO 
labeling laws, not only Maine's, but particularly Vermont's, which is 
scheduled to go into effect July 1. The "compromise" labeling part of the 
bill is carefully designed to make any information about GMOs in a food as 
hard to access as possible.

To label a food which contains GMO-based ingredients, manufacturers have 
the following choices:

* a smartphone-scannable QR code. If you don't have a smartphone, like 
one-third of the population (or half the rural population, or 
three-quarters of seniors), well, you're outta luck. Got a smartphone but 
can't get a signal? Tough.

* an 800-number. Don't have a phone (or a signal) in the store? Sorry.

* a link to a website. Even if you have a smartphone or carry your 
tablet/laptop in the grocery store, are you going to type in that link for 
every product you consider buying?

The only text allowed on a food package will be "Scan here [or Call] for 
more food information."

No alternative reference to GMO content is permitted.

Failure to do such labeling is a "prohibited act." But there are no 
consequences specified for violations. The government is forbidden from 
recalling any food that fails to do such labeling.

Restaurants and "very small" (?) manufacturers are excluded.

Even if you can manage those options, you probably still won't know what 
you're eating. The law only covers GMOs made using recombinant DNA, the 
most obsolete method of genetic engineering. There are newer, equally 
problematic methods that won't be labeled. And the Ag Secretary (long in 
bed with Monsanto) has 2 long years to come up with an as-yet-unknown 
definition of "how much GMO" triggers the labeling requirement.

If you don't care about GMOs, you didn't need this bill in the first place. 
If you do care, contact Senators King and Collins (202-224-5344 and 2523) 
about this imminent threat.

Dick Atlee
Southwest Harbor

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