The Debate Over GMO Labeling Goes DARK

A new bill introduced in Congress would preempt any state-level initiatives.

(Photo: Brian Kluch/Getty Images)

Apr 11, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Willy Blackmore is TakePart’s Food editor.

The latest twist in the battle for GMO labeling laws comes in the form of the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, which was introduced in Congress this week by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan. The bill would require the Food and Drug Administration to consider the safety of any new GMO product entering the market, slapping a label on anything that presents a risk to consumers.

As anyone who has followed the GMO debate closely knows, the only science suggesting that GMOs could have negative health effects has been, to put it lightly, highly contested. Which, barring new research that wipes out decades of studies, leaves the consumer-safety provision with little potential impact. What’s left behind? The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act would usurp any state-level labeling initiative.

Thus, in the tradition of the Monstano Protection Act, anti-GMO activists have dubbed Pompeo’s legislation DARK—the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act.

If passed, the bill would, in effect, kill the 66 legislative proposals being considered across 27 states, in addition to legislation that’s already passed, such as the laws that are on the books in Connecticut and Maine.

“Some of the campaigns in some of the states aren’t really to inform consumers but rather aimed at scaring them,” Pompeo said in a press conference. “And so it’s my judgment and what this bill attempts to do is set a standard.”

There’s no denying that emotions—often edged with fear—have driven the debate. But the Environmental Working Group’s Scott Faber isn’t buying it.

“If the DARK Act becomes law, a veil of secrecy will cloak ingredients, leaving consumers with no way to know what’s in their food,” he said in a press release. “Consumers in 64 countries, including Saudi Arabia and China, have the right to know if their food contains GMOs. Why shouldn’t Americans have the same right?”

Meanwhile, Sen. Barbara Boxer's Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act has been stuck in committee for nearly a year.