The controversial TPP trade deal could destroy the efforts of some states to mandate labelling of foods with GMO ingredients, while a bill moving through Congress has a similar goal.
WASHINGTON — It’s called the Safe and Accurate Food Labelling Act of 2015, or H.R. 1599, but activists and supporters of GMO labelling might know it better as the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act, or DARK Act — a nickname it got because it would destroy state efforts to mandate GMO labelling on foods containing ingredients from genetically modified sources.
And even if the DARK Act is defeated, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the controversial international trade deal recently granted fast-track authority to pass Congress, accomplishes much the same goal.
Activists who fear genetically modified ingredients could present safety hazards in the food supply have waged a successful campaign to pressure multiple states to enact GMO labelling laws. Vermont’s law goes into effect next year, while Connecticut and Maine have both signed similar laws that go into effect if surrounding states also pass their own GMO labelling laws. But the DARK Act could undo all the hard work of food safety activists, according to Anna Roth, senior editor of Civil Eats, a news source for “critical thought about the American food system.” In a report published last week, Roth writes:
“H.R. 1599 would negate all of these laws, and more–according to the Center for Food Safety. The preemption language in the bill would nullify over a hundred local laws that, directly or indirectly, regulate genetically engineered crops.”
Wenonah Hauter, executive director of the nonprofit Food & Water Watch, has called it “Monsanto’s Dream Bill” because it affects agricultural production as well as labelling, expands the definition of the word “natural” to include GMO ingredients, and would weaken efforts by nonprofits like Non-GMO Project to establish strict guidelines for labelling of “GMO Free” products.
“H.R. 1599 would put the system of voluntary non-GMO certification under the jurisdiction of the USDA. The USDA already has its own (new) certification program, which is much less rigorous than the Non-GMO Projects … If the bill passes, however, independent verifiers would essentially use the USDA’s standards and process (much like with the federal organic standards). No one knows whether the new USDA verification process will take longer, cost more, or be more onerous than independent verifications.”
Roth speculates that the DARK Act is “unlikely to pass” the Senate, but according to The Fifth Column’s Jennifer Long, the bill is maintaining its “momentum,” passing the House Agriculture Committee earlier this month and potentially coming up for vote soon. While the DARK Act may never become law, the fight over this bill may prove meaningless if the TPP is approved.
“The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a Free Trade agreement that would take away national sovereignty of all countries, opens the door to companies, such as Monsanto, to sue countries that do not implement GMO’s for loss of profit through the Investor State Dispute Settlement Tribunals (ISDS),” Long wrote on July 22.
Long is not the first to raise the alarm about this issue. Back in April, a Democratic Congressman shared his concerns about the TPP-Monsanto connection with Caracas-based Telesur:
“‘Call it the smoking gun,’ said Oregon Congressman Peter DeFazio. ‘Proof that fast track and massive free trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership are written by and for multinational corporations such as agriculture giant Monsanto. Instead of using trade deals as an opportunity to protect and strengthen consumer rights by joining the countries which require genetically engineered food to be labeled, this administration wants to benefit wealthy corporations at the expense of the public.’”
Congress made its final vote in support of fast-track authority for the TPP on June 24, meaning legislators will vote on the massive trade deal without being able to modify it. The contents of the bulk of the TPP remain secret, despite a $100,000 “bounty” on its release offered by WikiLeaks.