July 6, 2016 - Today the Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill that is referred to as “The DARK Act,” DARK is an acronym for “Deny Americans the Right to Know.” This bill would set Federal standards for food labelling that would pre-empt any state food labelling laws. There are legitimate concerns that the federal standards would be weaker than state standards and that they would allow food manufacturers to avoid labelling foods if they provide the information in another way such as a QR code or a toll free phone number.
The current DARK Act is another attempt for food manufacturers to avoid being forced to reveal whether their products contain genetically engineered ingredients, referred to as Genetically Modified Organisms or GMOs. The original DARK Act was defeated in the Senate in 2015 after it passed in the House. Polls show that supermajorities of people in the US want to know if their food contains GMOs. Some companies do label their products voluntarily, but the best way to avoid GMOs is to buy organic products.
GMOs are currently banned in many countries, especially in the European Union, which follows the precautionary principle. This principle states that before products are sold on the market, they must be proven to be safe. The precautionary principle is not followed in the US. The burden is on the public to demand investigation if they suspect danger.
The use of GMOs is widespread in the US for products such as corn, soybeans and canola. These are common ingredients for many food products. GMO crops are bred to be resistant to the herbicide Round-Up (glyphosate), made by Monsanto, so that the crops can be sprayed with Round-Up to reduce weeds. The increased use of Round-Up has caused the rise of “Super Weeds” that are resistant to Round-Up, which means that farmers are using greater amounts of Round-Up and are adding stronger herbicides as well. These herbicide residues are found in foods that contain GMO ingredients, including animal products from animals fed GMOs.
A French research team led by Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini performed a landmark study on animals fed GMO foods and water containing Round-Up. They found an increase in kidney and liver disease, increases in tumors and premature deaths. They link the diseases to Round-Up. This correlates with experiences in Central America, India and Sri Lanka where there are high rates of Chronic Kidney Disease in workers exposed to Round-Up. Scientists in the US, such as Dr. Stephanie Seneff of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, are concerned about the potential causal relationship between Round-Up and a host of chronic diseases that are on the rise in the US.
These studies and experiences certainly raise red flags and indicate that it would be prudent in the US to ban the use of GMOs and pesticides until more independent studies are performed. At the very least, people have the right to know what is in the food they are eating so they can make their own decisions about what to buy.
If I were your senator, I would vote against the DARK Act. But, I am not your senator yet, so I urge you to call Senators Mikulski and Cardin and urge them to vote “no” on the DARK Act today.