Last week, a majority of the U.S. House of Representatives sided with giant biotech and food companies instead of their constituents. By a vote of 275 to 150, the House passed H.R. 1599, the so-called “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015,” which has been dubbed the “Deny American the Right to Know” or DARK Act by grassroots organizations.
The DARK Act would overturn state laws that require the labeling of genetically engineered or GMO foods, such as Vermont’s law that is supposed to go into effect next year. In their place, it would effectively enshrine FDA’s failed policy of voluntary labeling – under which not a single company has labeled GMO foods in the last 14 years.
The DARK Act would also allow food companies to continue to make misleading “natural” claims for foods that contain GMO ingredients, while creating a federal bureaucracy that ethical food companies who wish to label their products as non-GMO will have to pay to comply with. The bill even pre-empts state and local regulation of the planting of GMO crops (although the exact scope of the pre-emption is unclear).
This is very bad news. The only ray of light is that the bill must also pass the Senate before becoming law, and we expect that the debates will be much closer there.
TAKE ACTION #1: Hold Your Representative Accountable
Make sure your Representative knows that you were watching and that you will remember how they voted.
If your Representative voted yes on H.R. 1599, call and tell him or her that you are very upset that they sided with large corporations instead of their constituents (politely, please).
If your Representative voted no on H.R. 1599 – standing up for individuals’ and states’ rights – call and say thank you.
You can see how each Representative voted here
If you don’t know who represents you, go to http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/
TAKE ACTION #2: Contact your Senators
The Senators need to hear from you! Start by calling or emailing both of your Senators and urging them to oppose H.R. 1599 or any bill that pre-empts state laws for labeling GMOs.
You can multiply your impact by also meeting them in person. The Senate will recess on August 10, and the Senators will return to their home states for a month. They will have multiple public events, and you can find out about the ones nearest you by calling their district office.
You can look up who your Senators are and find their contact information here or by calling the Capitol Switchboard at 202-224-3121.
Here’s a sample script for a call:
My name is ___, I am a constituent, and I am calling to urge Senator ____ to vote NO on H.R. 1599 or any other bill that blocks mandatory GMO labels by the states. It is very important to my family and me to know whether our food is genetically engineered. Based on the last 14 years of inaction, it’s clear that the large food manufacturers will not do so voluntarily. And H.R. 1599 goes further, pre-empting other state and local regulations, and creating a new federal bureaucracy for non-GMO labeling. This goes way too far! I urge my Senator to vote no on H.R. 1599 and any bill like it.
You can find more talking points in our sample letter below.
A phone call is more effective than an email. If you do send an email, please be sure to add a couple of personal sentences in the beginning so that it’s not just a form message.
You can also download our H.R. 1599 fact sheet to send as an attachment to your email, or as a follow up to your call.
Subject: Oppose HR 1599 and protect states’ and individuals’ rights
As a constituent, I urge you to reject H.R. 1599, Rep. Pompeo’s so-called “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act,” which would prohibit states from requiring the labeling of genetically engineered foods, or GMOs.
We have a right to know what is in our food so that we can make educated decisions about the food we eat. This bill does not meet the concerns of Americans about what’s in their food. What it really does is deny states the right to pass meaningful mandatory GMO food labeling bills.
The free market can only work when consumers have the information they need to make informed choices among different products. It is absurd to claim that voluntary labeling addresses the issue. In the 14 years that FDA has allowed companies to voluntarily label genetically engineered foods, not one single company has done so. Without mandatory labeling, consumers are effectively being defrauded.
The bill goes even further by forbidding state and local governments from any sort of oversight of GMO crops, even when the federal government has declined or failed to regulate them. Yet these local controls have been adopted in areas based on overwhelming public support, and in order to protect very valuable non-GMO agricultural industries. It is undemocratic and bad for our economy to overturn these local laws.
Please stand up for states’ and consumers’ rights and vote NO on H.R. 1599.