The bill pre-empting state laws on GMO labeling that was introduced into the Senate Agriculture Committee by Committee chairman Pat Roberts passed on Tuesday, with a 14-to-6 vote in favor of the bill. The passing of the new DARK Act bill has established a national standard against state laws in favor of enforced GMO labeling.
Senate Ag committee members expressed the importance of the bill advancing directly to the Senate. This is likely due to Vermont’s GMO labeling law, which goes into effect on July 1. Some voters elected to advance the bill while also demanding improvements before pledging to vote in favor of it in the Senate to assuage some of the worries of Americans who are opposed to a voluntary national standard.
Environmental Working Group immediately released a statement opposing this bill in its entirety. “The version of the DARK Act that passed the Senate Agriculture Committee today would rob Americans of their right to know what’s in their food,” said Scott Faber, EWG’s senior vice president of government affairs. “Nine out of ten Americans want the same rights as consumers in Russia, China, and more than 60 other nations that require mandatory GMO labeling.”
Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It, also reacted to the statement, saying, “Not only would Sen. Roberts’ version of the DARK Act block states from labeling GMOs, it would also make it more difficult for companies like Campbell’s to voluntarily disclose the presence of GMOs.”
Both statements applauded the efforts of Senator Debbie Stabenow, a ranking member of the Senate ag committee, who refused to support the bill, saying, “A voluntary program is not enough to meet consumer demand. That is why I cannot support it.”
Many opponents of the voluntary legislation are quick to note that companies have been able to voluntarily inform consumers of GMO contents since 2001, but very few have elected to do so.
Roberts’ bill would require the USDA to establish a voluntary standard for labeling GMOs within two years of passing. The national standard would effectively cancel out any and all state laws requiring GMO labeling, including those in Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine.
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