Center for Food Safety Action Fund works at the state and federal levels to introduce, support, and defend the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods. CFS Action Fund believes in a clear and unqualified consumer right-to-know about what is in our food.
If you want to know if your food contains gluten, aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, trans-fats or MSG, you simply read the label. But if you want to know if your food is genetically engineered, you’re not going to find any information on the package.
Why? Because unlike most other developed countries—such as the 15 nations in the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia and China—the U.S. has no laws requiring labeling of GE foods. Yet polls have repeatedly shown that the overwhelming majority of Americans—over 90% in most polls—believe GE foods should be labeled.
That’s why Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine all passed laws to mandate labeling of GMO food in their states. The Vermont law went into effect July 1, 2016, but big food and biotechnology interests have repeatedly attempted to block its implementation, both through the courts and in Congress. The industry has for months sought action by Congress that would preempt states from passing GE labeling laws. After a resounding victory in the Senate in March 2016 when labeling advocates successfully stopped the bill, called the DARK Act by labeling advocates, this fake GMO labeling bill ultimately passed on July 14th. The bill now goes to Obama’s desk to be signed or vetoed.
Though its supporters call it a “labeling” bill, this new DARK Act actually exempts most current GE foods from any labeling. That’s right, according to the FDA’s comments to Congress it would leave out large sectors of GE foods from any labeling requirement. This bill is really a non-labeling law masquerading as a labeling law. The FDA pointed out many other significant problems with the bill that if signed will cause mass consumer and market confusion. Meanwhile the bill preempts the strong GE food labeling laws of Vermont, Connecticut and Maine, the GE fish labeling law of Alaska, and the GE seed labeling laws of Vermont and Virginia – a profound violation of the democratic decision making of millions of Americans.
The bill also gives corporations the power to hide GE labeling by using digital QR codes that can only be read by smartphones. As if anyone had the time to point their smart phone at each and every product they are buying in the supermarket and try and read what it signifies, or access a website, or a call an 800 number.
But these QR codes are not only impossibly burdensome to those who have smartphones, they discriminate against more than a third of all Americans who do not even own these devices. That’s more than 100 million Americans! That means that those tens of millions on the “wrong side” of the digital divide will not be able to access GMO information labeled with QR codes. Moreover, those left out are mainly low income, those living in rural areas, and the elderly. According to Pew Research Center, only 50% of low income people in the U.S. own a smartphone; only 52% of rural Americans own a smartphone; and only 27% of seniors own a smartphone. Even those who do own smartphones are not guaranteed consistent access to the internet.
In a letter to President Obama from Rev. Jesse Jackson urging the President to veto this bill, Jackson stated:
“100,000,000 Americans, most of them poor, people of color and elderly either do not own a smart phone or an iPhone to scan the QR code or live in an area of poor internet connectivity. There are serious questions of discrimination presented here and unresolved matters of equal protection of the law.”
At the end of the day, a substantial majority of Americans would be deprived of their right to know if GMO labeling were done through QR codes.
When President Obama was running for office in 2008, he promised he’d label GMOs as President. This is President Obama’s last chance to get GMO labeling right – by vetoing this sham labeling bill and supporting plain language, mandatory on-package labeling.