On Friday, President Obama signed into law a bill best described as the Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, striking down Vermont’s popular, democratically enacted law requiring clear, easy to read GMO labels on food packaging. The bill also pre-empts labeling laws in Connecticut, Maine, Alaska and seed labeling laws in Vermont and Virginia while also preventing other states from adopting similar legislation in the future.
Over 90% of Americans support clear mandatory GMO labeling, but President Obama signed this giveaway to the Big Food industry, despite promising Americans he would label GMOs as part of his 2008 presidential run. The DARK Act, supported by Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), as well as trade groups representing the Big Food industry like the Grocery Manufacturers Association and biotech companies such as Monsanto, is an unfortunate example of how powerful corporations and moneyed interests have taken over our democracy.
The DARK Act is a blow to transparency around our food—it imposes a weak labeling requirement with no penalties for noncompliance, gives food companies the option to include QR codes or 1-800 numbers on packages, rather than clear labeling, and, thanks to loopholes in the bill, will likely leave many GMO ingredients exempt from any labeling requirements. The USDA will have 2 years to come up with their guidelines for this law.
While the DARK Act is a setback to ultimately knowing what’s in our food, our work isn’t done yet. Food & Water Watch will continue fighting to hold the elected officials who voted for this bad bill accountable, while also working to fix the regulatory system that currently rubberstamps so many GMO products.