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GMO Labeling: A Pivotal Moment

March 17, 2016 Update

On March 16, 2016, the U.S. Senate voted to reject the Denying Americans the Right to Know, or DARK, Act, demonstrating that they are hearing the voices of the majority of Americans who want GMO foods to be labeled. Curious to know how your senator(s) voted? Food Policy Action has compiled a list of senators who blocked the DARK Act. If your senator(s) voted “no” and you would like to see GMO foods labeled, consider thanking your senator(s) for standing up for your right to know, and urge them to champion mandatory GMO labeling legislation such as S. 2621 described below. You can contact your senators using the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202-224-3121) or give them a public shout out via social media.

Original Post

Thanks to everyone who called or wrote their lawmakers, the “Safe and Accurate Food Labeling (aka DARK) Act” did not become law in 2015. This speaks volumes about the GMO labeling movement’s impact. Congress is hearing our voices, and lawmakers continue to debate GMO labeling. As of March 2016, Congress is considering two competing proposed laws on the topic of GMO labeling:

Senate Bill 2609: Voluntary-Only GMO Labeling

If this bill becomes law, neither the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor individual states could require companies to label GMO foods. It would prevent mandatory labeling. Known as the Senate version of the Denying Americans the Right to Know, or DARK, Act, this bill would continue the current system of voluntary-only GMO labeling. You can track this bill’s progress through Congress on the S.2609 page of the GovTrack website. 

Senate Bill 2621: Mandatory GMO Labeling

If this bill becomes law, people would be able to find GMO ingredient information on food packaging, and manufacturers would be required to provide that information. Learn more about the Biotechnology Food Labeling and Uniformity Act. You can track this bill’s progress through Congress on the S.2621 page of the GovTrack website. For the latest updates as these bills move through Congress, follow the Just Label It campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Experts anticipate that these bills may be changed, or amended, before the Senate votes on them, or that entirely new legislation could be introduced. For instance, some lawmakers are proposing that instead of a straightforward, on-package disclosure, such as “genetically modified” in the ingredients panel, QR codes could be used to direct consumers to websites that would disclose whether or not a food has been produced using genetic engineering. Check out this article from Center for Food Safety to learn more about the proposed QR code use, and why many believe QR codes would be an inadequate solution. National Co+op Grocers (NCG), the organization behind this website, supports mandatory GMO labeling because we believe people have the right to know what’s in their food. We urge Congress to reject voluntary-only S.2609 and instead support mandatory S.2621 (or similar legislation that would require foods which are produced using genetic engineering to be labeled) so that people can decide for themselves whether or not to purchase them.

Make Your Voice Heard

If you would like to make your voice heard on the GMO labeling issue, calling your lawmaker is the most effective way to influence his or her vote. There are a number of ways to contact Congress. You can simply call the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask to be connected with the lawmakers who represent your state. You can also look up and contact your lawmakers, plus learn more about proposed laws and the legislative process, by visiting www.govtrack.us. Check out this brief article to learn out more about how to contact Congress. Contacting Congress is very effective and easy; it can be completed in just a few steps, and takes as little as ten minutes depending on how much you want to say. Your call will be answered by a friendly congressional staffer who will relay your comments to the lawmaker. You’ll want to refer to the tracking numbers listed above and have a rough idea of what you plan to say before you call. To learn more about GMO labeling see below and to learn more about how the voluntary-only, Senate version of the DARK Act (S.2609) would impact consumers, check out this FAQ sheet.

GMO Labeling FAQs 

Who wants GMOs to be labeled?

Surveys consistently show that the majority of Americans, regardless of age, income, education or party affiliation, think GMO foods should be labeled. More than 60 countries around the world already require GMO labeling. In fact, many manufacturers who oppose labeling in the U.S. already label their GMO products overseas.

Will GMO labeling cause food prices to rise?

In the countries where GMOs are required to be labeled, mandatory GMO labeling has not caused an increase in food prices. Manufacturers routinely update labels without raising their prices.

Are GMOs required to feed the world?

Since the introduction of GMO crops twenty years ago, crop yields have risen due to a variety of factors—regardless of whether the crop is genetically modified or not. In other words, GMOs have not been the cause of yield increases.

What is the connection between herbicides (weed-killers) and GMOs?

Most GMO crops on the market have been engineered to survive being sprayed with herbicides so farmers can spray fields to kill weeds without damaging crops. Weeds that do survive evolve so that they, too, can withstand the herbicide. In 2012, U.S. farmers planted 170 million acres of GMO crops, and the vast majority—154 million—of those acres were planted with crops genetically modified to survive being sprayed by the herbicide glyphosate, which the World Health Organization considers a probable carcinogen. As a result of glyphosate’s overuse, farmers in 27 states have found glyphosate-resistant “superweeds” in their fields. Roughly 61 million acres are now infested with superweeds. These superweeds cannot be controlled with glyphosate, so farmers resort to more toxic herbicides to combat them. Since glyphosate-resistant GMO crops no longer work as well as they did when they were first introduced, biotech companies are creating “second generation” GMOs that are resistant to more toxic pesticides, such as crops resistant to the herbicides 2,4-and dicamba. USDA estimates that these new GMO crops could increase the use of 2,4-D three-to-seven-fold by 2020, and cause a ten-fold increase in dicamba use.