House Bill Would Keep You in the Dark about What's in Your Food

 Sharon & Nikki McCutcheonphoto credit: Sharon & Nikki McCutcheon

I'm finding that my trips to the grocery store aren't nearly as quick and easy as they used to be. I spend half my time reading the labels on the packages, comparing products, deciding what makes the most sense for my family. But I'm not complaining - at least we have labels to help us make those decisions.

We consumers have a right to know what is in the food that we're eating, right?

Wrong.

Or at least so say the sponsors of a bill making its way through the House of Representatives and up for a vote tomorrow (Thursday, July 23). H.R. 1599 - what we call the "Denying Americans the Right to Know" Act (DARK Act) - is trying to keep us in the dark about what is in our food.

The whole bill is concerning.

But two of the most problematic parts of the bill would prevent states from regulating labels on food. Polls show that 90% of Americans support labeling food that contains genetically modified (engineered) organisms (GMOs). But this bill would eliminate existing GMO labeling laws in all states, leaving consumers in the dark about what's in their food. That would affect Vermont, Maine, and Connecticut, and pending bills in 17 other states that require labeling of GMO products in food.

It would also eliminate any state laws attempting to protect consumers from being deceived by potentially misleading "natural" claims on food (including laws that have nothing to do with GMOs).

This cascade of state 'right to know' labeling laws is scaring behemoth companies like Monsanto and Bayer that make millions off of their GMO crops, so they are turning to Congress to help them.

Why are Agrochemical giants so worried about letting consumers know what's in their food?

The rampant use of GMO crops engineered to resist pesticides can wreak havoc on our environment and our health. This resistance trait allows farmers to apply more pesticide to kill off weeds without hurting the crops. In fact, since Monsanto's introduction of "Roundup Ready" crops in the mid-90s, the application of the pesticide glyphosate - a probable human carcinogen - has sky-rocketed from 16 million pounds per year to over 280 million pounds per year. After it is sprayed in the crop fields, glyphosate can drift into nearby fields, neighborhoods, and schools. Glyphosate is now detected in our food, water, and air.

Even worse, weeds are becoming resistant to glyphosate, driving farmers to rely on more toxic pesticides that are linked to cancer, Parkinson's disease and reproductive problems.

So, in the absence of the federal government acting to keep consumers informed, states are taking action.

This bill's sponsors seem to think that we don't have the right to know what is in our food - a right that consumers in 64 other countries already hold. If you agree that we have the right to know about what is in our food, make sure you let your representative know: oppose HR 1599.

About the Authors

Mae Wu

Senior Attorney, Health program

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