HR 1599, “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 23, 2015. Although it met with heavy opposition, the measure passed by a vote of 275 to 150. GMO industry lobbyists spent almost $64 million in their successful attempt to persuade lawmakers to support their position.
Opponents to the act have nicknamed it the “Deny Americans the Right to Know,” or DARK Act. HR 1599 specifically bans state and local governments from passing legislation requiring labeling of genetically modified foods. Vermont is one state that has such a law, set to go into effect in 2016. Anti-GMO activists describe this bill as the latest and worst incarnation of the “Monsanto Protection Act.”
The Environmental Working Group, which monitors industry lobbying efforts, says food and biotechnology companies spent $63.6 million in 2014 on their efforts to pass this type of legislation. That amount is almost three times spent in 2013. The Grocer Manufacturers Association for GMO lobbying spent $25.4 million last year. The pro-labeling lobby, in contrast, spent only $2.6 million during 2014.
In the first six months of this year, Coca-Cola ($5,040,000), PepsiCo ($3,230,000), Kraft ($1,180,000), Kellogg’s ($1,310,000), General Mills ($1,100,000) and Land O’Lakes ($720,000) disclosed the largest lobbying expenditures that mentioned GMO labeling, according to EWG analysis.
With the House passing the DARK Act last month, Big Food will certainly re-stock the cash pipeline and unleash its army of lobbyists who are pushing the Senate to pass the DARK Act and deny Americans in every state the right to know what’s in their food,” says Libby Foley, a policy analyst with EWG and author of the report.
At the state level, opponents of labeling spent $105.8 million to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California, Colorado, Washington and Oregon.
HR 1599, which was introduced by Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Kansas), also weakens federal oversight of GMO foods. The bill also calls for the creation of a USDA non-GMO certification program much like the National Organic Program. This would shift all of the costs to producers who want to declare their foods non-GMO, creating even more obstacles for consumers who want to know whether the food they are buying is genetically engineered.
Natural food activists point out that this law, if it is passed in the Senate, will be another huge victory for the mass-production food industry, and a defeat for the American people.