Keeping Us in the Dark

Keeping Us in the Dark
  • Tuesday, July 28, 2015
  • Nibeyu Yegezu
To the dismay of those who still believe in states' rights, the House has passed a bill that would make mandatory labeling initiatives by states illegal. The Denying Americans the Right to Know Act or Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act now awaits the passage of the Senate.

In a disheartening occurrence, a majority of Republicans voted for the measue among a total of 64% of the House of Representatives. Only 12 Republicans voted against the measure. The Organic Consumer's association rightfully points out the bill's restricitve nature by explaining that it will repeal existing state GMO labeling laws, appease the FDA by not requiring independent pre-market safety testing of GMO foods (since they believe that they are as safe as conventional agriculture foods and don't need labeling), and begin a voluntary "GMO-Free" labeling program that would give GMOs a "natural" label. The U.S. Department of Agriculture overseeing this program adds to the insult of our continually expanding government.

Representive K. Michael Conaway of Texas laughably justifies the bill with this statement; "Unfortunately, proposed Federal and State laws threaten this innovation by generating a patchwork of differing labeling requirements, which will result in inconsistent and confusing information for consumers and interfere with interstate commerce."

The Chairman of the House Agriculture Committee seems to have forgotten that the ability for states to produce their own labeling requirements allows their consumers to make their own decisions and serves them best. If over 90% of Americans support the labeling of GMO's how could Representative Conaway claim that consumers will be "confused" and not realize that the Dark Act is actually anti-consumer?

It's simple: He's granting the wishes of big business lobbyists who would like us to believe that the bill is pro-consumer and ensures our safety, when that's hardly the case. Voters in Vermont who passed a ballot initiative to require GMO labeling would have a hard time seeing eye to eye with Rep. Conaway. The bill's summary on congress.gov clearly states that the FDA must allow, but not require, GMO food to be labeled as GMO and it must regulate the use of "natural" on food labels. The most troubling sentence in the summary states that, "A food can be labeled as non-GMO even if it is produced with a GMO processing aid or enzyme or derived from animals fed GMO feed or given GMO drugs."

Conaway's last sentence of his statement reads, "H.R. 1599 establishes a voluntary nation-wide marketing program that gives consumers access to consistent, reliable information while protecting advancements in food production technology and innovation."

Consumers will be less safe after the passage of this bill because the Federal government can now "voluntarily" give our foods GMO labels while advancing Washington's business agenda instead of "protecting advancements in food production technology and innovation." It's a perfect marriage of the government joining manufacturers in fooling consumers, in order to increase their profits and have their backs scratched in return. 

The unlikely voice of reason in this matter is Democratic Rep. John Conyer whose recent CNN Op-Ed titled "Let Americans know what's in their food", connects the bill's title with warnings from George Orwell's 1984 novel. Without directly addressing it, Conyer mentions the lack of transparency we're used to seeing from the Obama administration and that lack of transparency has been used over and over again to apply federal overreach. Conyer warns of farm workers and rural residents suffering economic and enviornmental damages from state's being unable to regulate GMO crops and similar chemicals. The increased use of herbicides resulting from GMOs is a convienantly covered up truth that failed to be discussed. Ironically, Conyer blames a one-size-fits all solution by federal policy makers which seems like the kind of statement that should have been expressed by one of our courageous conservative leaders.

The eventual bill's passage in the Senate will signal the continued disloyal actions by our Republican leadership. From Trans-Pacific Trade to the Ex-Im Bank, this list is surely growing past tired by now. Transparency is something that we all long for from our politicians regardless of our differing ideologies and is of course an ongoing theme from the most local campaigns to the 2016 presidential race. Come to think of it, transparency is a word that in today's political climate has become nothing more than a negative connotation.

The fact that Democrats and not Republicans sided with the American people with 138-45 voting no to the legislation is a stark contrast that makes me wonder about the basis for having a Republican majority in congress.

As Senator Ted Cruz might say, "The Washingon Cartel" is alive and well.
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