How can legislation that is opposed by 9 out of 10 Americans become the law in our system of representative government?
Here’s how it works.
Here is presidential candidate Barrack Obama promising, in 2007, that he would implement labeling on genetically modified (GMO) food products “because”, as he said, “Americans should know what they are buying.”
Now for American public opinion on this subject.
According to the Center for Food Safety, a poll of likely 2016 voters, conducted by The Mellman Group in November, 2015, found that 89% said they favor mandatory labels on “foods which have been genetically engineered or containing genetically engineered ingredients be labeled to indicate that.” A mere 6% oppose such a requirement and another 6% don’t know. A 77% supermajority not only favored mandatory labeling but “strongly” favored the proposal. These views are widespread across demographic lines, with nearly all Democrats (92% favor, 2% oppose), independents (89% favor, 7% oppose) and Republicans (84% favor, 7% oppose) supporting a required label.
Despite his promise, President Obama signed Senate Bill 764 this past Friday under quiet news coverage that, with the support of food manufacturers like Monsanto, creates a weak and meaningless federal standard for GMO labeling.
S.B. 764 is referred to by opponents as the DARK Act, short for “Denying Americans the Right to Know. The DARK Act takes away the rights of states to implement GMO labeling laws, most notably in the State of Vermont, which now can no longer enforce its GMO labeling state law. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., issued a statement this past Saturday, the day after Obama signed the DARK Act into law, saying “powerful corporate interests” now are able to “get by with doing as little as possible” as a result of the law.
“I remain concerned that this is a very bad deal for consumers,” Leahy said.
Here are examples of what little “GMO labeling” existed in Vermont before the DARK Act was signed into law last week.
Worst of all, the DARK Act permits food manufacturers to use a phone number, a website address, text, symbols or a QR code that consumers must scan with a smartphone to relay information about any GMO ingredients. That many consumers don’t have such technology, are not likely to make phone calls or track something on a corporate website and such “labeling” is onerous rather than transparent did not seem to concern lawmakers.
Of course, President Obama did not act alone. GOP and Democrat Congressional leaders, many who receive financial contributions from food manufacturers “fast-tracked” the DARK Act in the Senate without letting it go through committee where many opponents could be heard on the bill.
The Senate vote on the DARK Act was 63 in favor, 30 opposed and 7 not voting. The roll call vote for each Senator on passage of the DARK Act is here. NOTE: Don’t be confused by the title of the bill on the Senate website, despite the hold-over title, this bill had nothing
to do with defunding Planned Parenthood or the National Sea Grant College. Instead, the original bill was amended to address only the DARK Act. Thus, despite the misleading title of SB 764, the Senate vote reported for that bill concerns the DARK Act.
Since the Senate bill was significantly different that the U.S. House version, the House, conveniently before the summer recess, decided not to take up the Senate version for deliberation and instead, just quickly voted to pass the Senate’s version of the DARK Act and to send it to President Obama for his signature. The House roll call vote on the DARK Act is here.
Nonetheless, supporters of GMO labeling vow to fight on.
And so will Ellwood Thompson’s.