Remarks of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Capitol Hill Press Conference Opposing the “DARK” Act

I want to thank Senator Tester for making this event happen today, and I want to welcome our very accomplished guests.  The stage here in Congress might not be as bright as some that you have stood on, but your voice will certainly amplify the importance of this simple right to know issue.

My home state of Vermont is the only state in the country on track to implement a law requiring the clear labeling of foods made with genetically modified ingredients.  By this time next year, Vermonters and visitors to our state will know whether or not they are buying GMO products at the grocery store. Vermonters care about what is in their food, and as a state, we have acted through our legislature to create such a law.  But this so-called DARK Act would deny us this right to know – a basic right of all consumers.

This GMO labeling conversation has hallmarks of the debate that ultimately established a national Organic Standard.  Twenty-five years ago, many lawmakers dismissed the fact that a few back-to-the-earth types in places like Vermont wanted the opportunity to label their products as organic and have that label really mean something.  But we provided them that opportunity through the Organic Farm Bill in 1990, and 25 years later the market for organic products generates over $30 billion each year.  And that’s because we have a label that means something.

All this talk makes me wonder of the DARK Act proponents: What is so frightening about allowing consumers to simply know what they are buying and feeding their families?  I can recognize that different labeling standards in different states, is not ideal. But the answer is not to keep all consumers in the dark, as they propose.  The answer is to make sure that all consumers have the right to know what is in the food they buy. I am proud that Vermont is a national leader on this, and that the people here today support this effort.  It is important that we make sure consumers’ voices are heard, so they are not kept in the dark.

I’ll turn to Senator Boxer now, a real leader on this issue.

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