Senate’s New “DARK Act” An Insult to Consumers’ Right To Know

Leahy: Senate’s New “DARK Act” An Insult to Consumers’ Right To Know

. . . Leahy Files Series Of Amendments

. . . “Shortsighted, Meaningless Labeling ‘Deal’ Is Aimed At Derailing Vermont’s Consumer-Friendly Law”

WASHINGTON (WEDNESDAY, July 6, 2016) – Vermont’s U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D) Wednesday blasted new federal legislation, being readied for fast-track handling by its backers, that would preempt Vermont’s first-in-the-nation genetically engineered labeling law, leaving consumers with less information about the foods they buy.

Leahy said, “Some in the Senate, and the big corporations that back this deal, want to throw out the careful work Vermont has done – the record we have compiled – and say, ‘We know best.’ Instead of using Vermont’s law as a floor, these powerful interests are intent on stamping it out as quickly as they can. What’s driving their efforts isn’t consumers’ right to know, but on doing as little as they can get by with. They couldn’t care less if their plan sows more confusion for consumers across the country.”

Leahy, joined by other opponents of the recently released labeling proposal -- including Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) -- spoke at a press conference on Capitol Hill Wednesday morning.

Leahy said, “This proposal may be an improvement on the DARK Act we worked hard to defeat on March 16. But it’s a fig leaf disguised as a compromise. It is not enough. It can be better. It should be better. And this Vermonter is going to keep fighting to make it better.”

On Wednesday Leahy filed a series of amendments to make key improvements to the proposed bill. Proponents of the bill are expected to block any effort to amend the bill. Leahy said the proposal, a revised version of the DARK Act which was defeated in March under Leahy’s leadership, would preempt Vermont’s longstanding seed labeling laws, raise technology challenges for consumers, particularly in rural areas, and fail to include any enforcement requirements for compliance.

“Companies are already labeling foods that contain genetic engineering,” said Leahy. “It can be done. It should be done. More than 60 countries across the globe require GE labeling. American consumers want and deserve no less. I am proud that Vermont has led the way on a pro-consumer, pro-disclosure label, and I will continue to fight efforts to undermine it.”

Amendments filed by Leahy on Wednesday would:

  • Strike provisions to preempt seed labeling laws (Vermont’s law has been on the books since 2004) [text];
  • Strengthen the definition of bioengineering to encompass highly processed foods [text];
  • Provide that if the required study determines that consumers will not have sufficient access to information via electronic or other digital codes, that the Secretary shall require only on-package disclosure [text];
  • Improve the required study to include an assessment of consumer awareness, in addition to consumer access [text];
  • Require the language accompanying an electronic/digital code to say “GE information” instead of simply “food information” [text];
  • Strike all references to the electronic/digital disclosure [text];
  • Grandfather Vermont’s Act 120 and any other similar labeling laws that were enacted before January 1, 2016 [text];
  • Set the amount of GE food required to trigger a label at 0.9 percent to match the Vermont Act 120 and international labeling standards [text]; and
  • Strengthen consumer privacy within the bill’s requirements [text].

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