Washington, D.C.—Today 328 farm, food, health, public interest and environmental organizations and businesses urged Congress to protect consumers’ right to know what they are eating by requiring mandatory labeling of genetically engineered (GMO) foods.
The letter urged members of Congress not to support H.R. 1599, a bill introduced by Rep. Pompeo (R-KS) that would block states from requiring labeling of foods containing GMOs, and instead support bills introduced by Rep. DeFazio (D-OR) and Sen. Boxer (D-CA) that would create a federal standard for GMO labeling.
Rep. Pompeo’s bill, referred to by labeling supporters as the Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, would make voluntary labeling for genetically engineered foods the national standard and enshrine in federal law a failed policy that has kept consumers in the dark about what they are eating for two decades.
Most importantly, the DARK Act would preempt state efforts to require labeling of GMO foods. Since 2013, over 25 states have introduced legislation to label GMO foods, and these bills have passed in Connecticut, Maine and Vermont.
“The federal government has failed consumers for years when it comes to GMO labeling, so people around the United States are getting labeling laws passed at the state level,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “It’s no surprise that Big Food and the biotechnology industry want to use Congress to block state level efforts. But it’s time for Congress to shine a light on GMOs and ensure that they’re properly labeled.”
“The biotech industry built its empire by deceiving American consumers,” said Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association. “Now that consumers realize the extent to which they’ve been deceived, and the extent to which their health has been compromised by chemical companies masquerading as food companies, they are demanding transparency. HR 1599 is a direct attack on consumers’ right to know the truth about what’s in their food. It’s also a blatant attack on states’ rights and on democracy itself.”
“The DARK Act is profoundly undemocratic as it robs citizens of their right to vote for labeling of genetically engineered food,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety. “Citizens of 64 other countries have that right and Americans should as well. Congress needs to listen to the democratic will of the people, not the bottom line of Monsanto.”
Jim Goodman, an organic dairy and beef farmer in Wisconsin, added, “It seems funny to me that, despite efforts nationwide to minimize the impact of big government, the DARK Act is exactly the opposite. Does it make sense that the US House of Representatives would choose to dominate state and local laws around labeling GMOs?”
“Pesticide corporations and their allies in Congress are trying to keep Americans in the dark,” said Kristin Schafer, policy director at Pesticide Action Network. “Americans have a right to know and a right to choose whether they want to support genetically engineered crops that promote increased and widespread herbicide use.”
Instead of the DARK Act, the letter urges members of Congress to support H.R. 913, introduced by Representative DeFazio (D-OR), and S. 511, introduced by Senator Boxer (D-CA), which would balance the needs of companies for a single labeling standard with the overwhelming demand by consumers for the mandatory labeling of GMOs in food.
“Openness and transparency are woven into the fabric of American democracy and every American has the inalienable right to know what’s in their food and how it’s produced, no matter what corporate lobbyists say in Washington, D.C.,” said Dave Murphy, founder and executive director of Food Democracy Now! “If food companies want loyal customers who trust their products, they would be wise to support mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. Anything less will be met with widespread consumer rejection in the marketplace.”
Kate Fried, Food & Water Watch, (202) 683-4905, kfried(at)fwwatch(dot)org.
Katherine Paul, Organic Consumers Association, (207) 653-3090, katherine(at)organicconsumers(dot)org.
Abigail Seiler, Center for Food Safety, (202) 547-9359, aseiler(at)centerforfoodsafety(dot)org.
Katherine Ozer, National Family Farm Coalition, (202) 543-5675, kozer(at)nffc(dot)net.
Paul Towers, Pesticide Action Network, (916) 216-1082,ptowers(at)panna.org.