Last Thursday the House of Representatives passed the so-called DARK Act (H.B. 1599) by a vote of 275-150. The key provisions of the bill are:
- It forbids the FDA and State legislatures from requiring that GMO foods be labelled as GMO
- It requires a government certification in order to label a product as non-GMO
- It makes it illegal to suggest that non-GMO foods are safer than GMO foods
- It allows food from animals fed GMO grains to be labeled as non-GMO
The part of the law that takes away the right/freedom of people of a state to require that GMO foods be labeled as such in their state is getting all the media attention, but as bad as that is, it isn’t the worst part of this bill.
We raise our pigs and chickens on Virginia-raised GMO-free feed. We pay significantly more for that feed in order to give our family and our customers meat and eggs from animals that have not been fed GMOs. We identify our products, truthfully, as “GMO-free.”
But if this bill is passed by the Senate and signed into law by the President (which seems likely to me), then it will be illegal for us to identify our products as “GMO-free” unless we have an expensive and intrusive government certification (similar to being “certified organic,” which we choose not to do). Meanwhile, industrial farms feeding their animals a diet of GMO grains will be allowed to sell their products as “GMO-free.” And if we claim that GMO-free food is safer than GMO food, we will be in violation of the law.
If you’d like to see how your Representative voted on this, a link to the roll call vote is HERE.
OpenSecrets.org reports that House members voting in favor of this bill received, on average, three times more money from Agribusiness than those who voted no. “All told, the 230 Republicans and 45 Democrats who voted to pass the bill collectively received over $29.9 million from the agribusiness sector and food and beverage industry during the 2014 cycle, or about $108,900 per member.”
These days consumers increasingly prefer to know what’s in their food and how the animals they consume were raised. Even though the local food movement is still a tiny segment of the overall food market, the momentum clearly has the industry concerned. Concerned enough to dole out big bucks to buy freedom-stealing legislation such as this.
If this becomes law it will make it more difficult for consumers to know the truth about their food and it will make it more difficult for small farms like ours to get our message out. But the underlying desire for ethically-produced food won’t go away. As a friend of mine likes to say, things like just go to show that we’re winning.