Since President Obama signed legislation dubbed the Deny Americans the Right to Know, or the “DARK Act” (U.S. Senate Bill 764), our right as Americans to know what is in our food — especially when it comes to Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) — has become a lot less secure. On the other hand, this misguided law has brought an increased awareness of how dire a situation we, as Americans, are in when it comes to knowing what’s in our food. To put things into perspective, the DARK Act provides for:
- No Penalties For Food Manufacturers Who Break the Law.
- No Recall of Mislabeled Food.
- Exemptions for refined sugars, oils, starches, refined oil and milled corn (all big sources of GMO).
- Exemptions for genetic engineering by synthetic biology, CRISPR/cas9, gene editing and gene cassettes.
- Loopholes that could exclude herbicide tolerant crops and many Bt toxin insecticide producing crops.
- Allows QR codes, toll free phone numbers or an undetermined symbol to replace simple words on the package.
- An Undefined Tolerance Threshold for allowable level of GMO contamination.
- Immediately prevents states from implementing their own state GMO labeling laws.
For those who are unsure of the scientific basis for legitimate public concern about GMO in our food supply, GMO Free USA has a good and well-cited summary of the evidence for such concerns. However, just to be clear, the Food Advocates at Ellwood Thompson’s believe this issue is also about American’s Right To Know what they are eating and that Americans should be able to make conscious food choices for themselves.
As a result of federal preemption, the DARK Act now prevents states like Vermont, Maine, Alaska, and Connecticut from implementing their own GMO food labeling laws. As such, the right of American citizens to know what they are eating has taken several steps backward. That is not the case in other countries.
According to the Center for Food Safety (CFS), currently 64 countries around the world require labeling of genetically modified foods. The CFS has an interactive map indicating those countries. As such, more countries in the world ban the growth of GMOs than actually allow GMOs to be cultivated in their country.
As you can see from the interactive map, in Europe, many countries have take strong action regarding GMO in the food supply over the past few years.
Just last year Greece and Latvia jumped on the bandwagon and joined many other European countries by banning the growing of GMO crops. Now 19 out of the 28 nations in the European Union have officially opted out of allowing the cultivation of genetically modified maize, or MON810, which is the only GMO variety grown in Europe.
The current list of countries that ban the cultivation of GMOs includes: Algeria, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belize, Bhutan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Madagascar, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Peru, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Serbia, Slovenia, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, Venezuela, Wales, Wallonian Region (Belgium)
So as many other countries move forward, why do we appear to be going in the opposite direction?
The Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association’s (OSGATA) recently withdrew its membership in the Organic Trade Association (OTA) citing the OTA’s “betrayal over Monsanto-backed GMO labeling bill.” The “betrayal” refers to a few members of the OTA board decided to act unilaterally, endorsed the bill, and pushed for it to be passed in the Senate.
“It’s important for the world to understand that it was the Organic Trade Association that killed our state GMO labeling laws by backing Monsanto’s Stabenow-Roberts bill” (aka the DARK ACT), said Maine organic seed farmer and longtime OSGATA President, Jim Gerritsen. “It’s clear that Organic Trade Association has come under the control of a small group of lobbyists controlled by giant-food corporations that also own organic brands. In an effort to protect their own bottom lines and those of their parent companies, the reckless actions of these large parent-owned organic companies threaten the survival of organic farmers and the organic community we have all worked so hard for decades to build. The Organic Trade Association can no longer be trusted and it’s clear that organic farmers can no longer condone this dubious trade association’s troubling behavior.”
As such, the OTA and several other groups and companies backing the bill have left many of the other organic organization and coalitions confused about the integrity of their supposed allies.
This is a small glimpse into the lobbying and industry-based power that Monsanto, Syngenta, DuPont, and others have at controlling the outcome of these bills, which ultimately become our reality. It appears that they have infiltrated into the OTA and other organic organizations. Here is a list of the major financial supporters of the DARK Act.
If we do not have the unity of those supposedly working together to promote GMO labeling and organic foods, how can we as a nation defeat those who are compromising our food supply?
I hope this blog can help create a conversation and ultimately lead to greater awareness of the reality and the importance of what we as a collective in this country decide to allow moving forward. Our decisions, actions, and non-actions will affect not only us, but our children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and on down the line…