The DARK Act

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.

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28 comments on “The DARK Act

  1. smcasson says:

    Does this just make you SICK??

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Yeah it’s discouraging in some ways. We feel like the government stole the word “organic” from us and now it’s taking away “GMO-free” as well (and serving over to industrial ag on a platter). The bill also calls for regulation of the word “natural” and “grass fed” is up for regulation as well. One friend told us that the more this kind of thing happens the less consumers are going to trust food purchased from producers they don’t know, so maybe in the end it will only strengthen our movement.

      Like

      • smcasson says:

        I like your optimism.
        I am imagining packages of beef from a farm similar (in goals) to yours, after these changes take effect. Using no hot-button terms: “This cow ate the same varieties of pasture mix and the resulting hay that have been used for the last century. The vegetation the cow grazed on was not sprayed with chemicals. The cow grazed freely, unconfined, in an open field of multiple acres. It did not eat grain or antibiotics. Furthermore, the cow was friendly, and was killed with gratitude for its life, quickly and painlessly.”

        Liked by 4 people

  2. shoreacres says:

    I read about this at the time, and was going to pass on the link. Then I thought: no need. Bill will know, and will post about it.

    As it happens, I just came across this a couple of days ago. I know you are in the same time crunch I am right now, with too much work and too little time. But the article caught my attention because it “reads so reasonably,” and were I to come across it with no background at all, I’d think — well, so much for that organic/nonGMO business.

    Maybe Forbes needs someone to write an article opposing this. I know someone who could do it.

    Like

    • smcasson says:

      FYI, that link takes you to page 2 of the article, for those who want to read it in full.
      And you’re right, if I didn’t know better, I’d suspect all the “organic” farmers of being crooks, by the tone of that article.

      Like

    • Bill says:

      That’s one of the problems with “organic”—there is industrial organic, primarily large corporate subsidiaries of chemical ag companies and there are ethical family farms, but they’re all lumped together in pieces like this. I know some certified organic farmers and they are conscientious and dedicated–trying hard to make a living with the deck stacked against them. But I have a friend who is in the business of providing services to large farms and I asked him how many of the “organic” farms he services have our ethic. His answer shocked me. None of them, he said. For every one of them it’s about money. They’re only doing it because they’re chasing a higher profit margin. So naturally they play it as close to the line as possible. One of chem ag’s talking points these days is to say that organic farms used pesticides too. It is true that there are government-approved natural pesticides that can be used and still be considered “organic.” We don’t use them on our farm. We use no pesticides, whether approved for organic use or not. The key point is to get to know the producers of your food. Buy from people you know and trust. Of course that isn’t always possible, which is where certifications come in. In that case, all things being equal I’d favor organic over conventional. But I’d favor local over industrial organic. Having said all that, the article is misleading and reductionist. It is of no benefit to consumers trying to make the best possible food choices.

      Like

  3. Aggie says:

    I am concerned that, ultimately, they will make it illegal to grow real food. Thank you, I will reblog with links to Texas senators.

    Like

  4. daphnegould says:

    Isn’t that third point in violation of our first amendment?

    Like

    • Bill says:

      If this becomes law hopefully that provision will be tested in court. To be more precise, it makes it illegal to suggest that on a food label. Still, while there is a significant scientific majority opinion that GMO food is safe, it is a controversial conclusion and consumers should be free to decide that themselves. The “safety” of GMOs is not so clear when placed in the context of diet and a food system, rather than evaluated like a pharmaceutical. Bottom line, I wouldn’t be surprised is that provision is struck down if this becomes law.

      Like

  5. avwalters says:

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention. I’ve been writing to my legislator (now my Senator), posting on Facebook, exhorting my neighbors, I am not sure what else to do. Our country is more and more beginning to resemble Orwell’s 1984. Corporations rule the roost, and enact protections for their poisons, at the same time, promulgating rules to make growing your own, or selling quality food more difficult.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      You’re right. The best way to resist, in my opinion, is to continue to grow our own food and offer it to the public (for those who are market gardeners) with truthful claims about how it’s grown. If we stay out of grocery stores we’ll be out of the realms they rule. I posted earlier this year about “Criminals at the Farmer’s Market.” Chem-Ag is being hit where it hurts now (in the bank account) so they’re fighting back harder. Of course Gandhi said that is the stage before victory–First they ignore us, then they ridicule us, then they fight us, then we win.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, it doesn’t surprise me that all three of the congressmen from Nebraska voted for the bill. Being a big agriculture state, GMO is big here. Monsanto owns all the seed planted. I find it fascinating that the very large food companies are threatened by a tiny segment of the food production. It appears that those companies don’t want any competition. Wouldn’t that be an end around to obtain a monopoly in a segment of the food growing chain? I understand that Monsanto is in progress of taking over vegetables seeds which will eventually if not already be supplied to the large food growers. One has to wonder, just as Aggie says, when will it become illegal to grow your own food. For safety purposes of course. 🙂

    Hey the book cover looks great. The publisher did a great job on the design. I’m planning on getting a copy to read and add to my library of books on gardening and food related subjects. Think you could come to Nebraska for a book signing? 🙂 Just kidding. It would be nice to get a signed copy though. How special would that be? Very special that’s what. I’m waiting with anticipation on the sale date for your book.

    Those blasted raccoons are starting with sweet corn eating early this year. I’m almost done with fence building but they have ravished the corn already. The ears are barely formed and the silks are hardly on the ears but they have stripped the ears only to leave them ruined. Looks like no corn again this year but next year will for sure be the year that the little buggers will be foiled. I’m determined to out maneuver them. It’s not about the corn any more. It’s about a test of wills and who will win. 🙂 Well, not really. It’s more about a challenge to see if it can be done without harming the wild life. I see portable electric fencing in my future next year.

    Have a great day out in the Virginia White Flint Farm market garden.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      The raccoons have started eating our sweet corn too. Based on past experience, they won’t leave any for us. Oh well. It’s been that kind of summer here. Maybe if we sprayed some poisons on it the coons would leave it alone.

      Maybe I will personally deliver a book to you some day. In the meantime, of course I can send you a signed copy. Signing a book will definitely be a new (and kinda weird) experience for me. 🙂

      It blows my mind that they’d be audacious enough to create a law that allows them to raise animals on GMO feed, yet market it as non-GMO, while denying us the right to use the term without certifications we can’t afford. Under this law it is legal to lie and illegal to tell the truth. As AV says above, it’s like something out of 1984.

      Good luck with the raccoons.

      Like

  7. Have you tried contacting AVAAZ? Their reach and influence go very far, and this is exactly their kind of issue.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Thanks Cynthia. I’m not familiar with AVAAZ, but if they are advocates for sustainable agriculture or food safety (or anything of the sort) then I’m sure they’re aware of this legislation. It’s been hotly contested and in the forefront of debate in this arena lately. Thanks for bringing them to my attention.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for sharing as I had no idea. 3 of our 4 Democrats voted against it and I gave hell to the Kurt Schrader, the one Dem who voted yes, on Twitter. We have one Republican who is just an evil SOB and of course voted yes. GMO labeling was voted down by only 837 votes in Oregon due to massive Monsanto, etc., $ poured into having farmers say they “eat organic but support GMO!” garbage. It’s so messed up. I rely on the Non-GMO Project labeling at our grocers to know what not to buy. Ugh ugh ugh.

    Like

    • Bill says:

      Because so many people like you are having to rely on voluntary “non-GMO” labeling, this bill seeks to preempt that and put the term “non-GMO” into the domain of the USDA (while simultaneous stripping it of its meaning). Hopefully your senators will step up and do the right thing.

      Like

  9. PS – it cracks my husband up that they say it “keeps the price of food down” – he’s from Australia and said today “I’ve never seen such cheap food in my life as in the States!”

    Like

    • Bill says:

      As a society we spend less of our income on food than any society in the history of the world, by far. And it keeps dropping even as we increasingly eat food prepared by others rather than food prepared in our own kitchens. For the vast majority of us, the price of food is not a serious problem these days.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thank you for this info. I’m emailing the “Honorables” tonight…

    Like

  11. Steve says:

    First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.

    For every word they regulate another will take its place.

    They are retreating to their Alamo, Congress, having placed their bets on people being too stupid to care.

    We’re winning.

    Like

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