The Senate made a bold move last week in blocking an effort by Sen. Pat Roberts that would prohibit states from requiring labels for genetically modified foods (GMOs). The bill, appropriately called the Denying Americans the Right to Know Act, proposed a voluntary labeling standard in which the “bioengineered food” (as the legislation called the genetically modified goods) may be selectively identified rather than required. DARK was written in response to the 2014 Vermont law that requires labels on all products containing seed or other ingredients that are genetically modified. Food companies have frantically tried to block the law before it takes effect; the Senate, however, did just the opposite.
With a final count of 48-49, the Senate effectively blocked the bill from passing, as it required a 60 vote count in order to take effect. Roberts accused opponents of failing to present any feasible solutions, whereas he claimed that he “acted to provide a responsible, enforceable, scientific and proactive approach to arm consumers with the information they want to make informed choices about what to put on their dinner table.”
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders was among those who opposed the bill. He stated that he was “pleased that Congress stood up to the demands of Monsanto and other multi-national food industry corporations and rejected this outrageous bill” and called the vote “a victory for the American people over corporate interests.”
GMO labeling has become a hot topic in recent years, with more and more people expressing concern over the overwhelming amount of food that contains GMOs, yet there remains a lack of information presented to consumers. Biotechnology companies essentially alter crops like corn and food companies, in turn, use said altered crops to manufacture food for individuals; ultimately, most times consumers are completely unaware their food has been altered in any way. GMOs are also extremely controversial because of their heavy pesticide use, which only contributes to the toxicity of foods common throughout America.
Food companies have poured millions in fighting regulation of labeling, which begs the question as to why they are so desperate to hide the truth from Americans. The suspicion is exacerbated by the fact that many companies refuse to publicly declare their anti-labeling stance, instead choosing to allow food agencies to take the heat while funding efforts to defeat labeling legislation. According to the New York Times, 93% of Americans want GMO food labeling and 72% reported it was crucial to them to avoid GMO products. The dissent between the clear desire of Americans versus big companies and their profit margins yet again proves to be an issue for the country. Perhaps Sen. Bernie Sanders is correct, in that too often the interests of corporate America supersede the interests of citizens. In this case, the citizens have triumphed and are no longer in the DARK.
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