How The Food Industry Destroys Democracy

On July 1, Vermont implemented a law requiring disclosure labels on all food products that contain genetically engineered ingredients, also known as genetically modified organisms or GMOs.

Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food and Water Watch, hailed the law as "the first law enacted in the U.S. that would provide clear labels identifying food made with genetically engineered ingredients. Indeed, stores across the country are already stocking food with clear on-package labels thanks to the Vermont law, because it's much easier for a company to provide GMO labels on all of the products in its supply chain than just the ones going to one state."

What that means is that the Vermont labeling law is changing the landscape of our grocery stores, and making it easier than ever to know which products contain GMOs.

And less than a week later after that law went into effect, that Vermont law is under full-out attack.

Monsanto and their bought-and-paid-for toadies in Congress are pushing very legislation to override Vermont's law. Democrats who oppose this effort call the Stabenow/Roberts legislation the "Deny Americans the Right to Know" Act, or DARK Act.

This isn't the first time that a DARK Act has been brought forward in the Senate, and one version of the bill was already shot down earlier this year.

The most recent version of the bill was brought forward by Michigan Democratic Senator Debbie Stabenow and Kansas Republican Senator Pat Roberts, both of whom have received substantial contributions from BigAg.

Stabenow has received over $600,000 in campaign contributions since 2011 from the Crop Production and Basic Processing Industry, and Pat Roberts has received over $600,000 from the Agricultural Services and Products industry.

When Senator Stabenow unveiled the industry-friendly legislation, she boasted that, "For the first time ever, consumers will have a national, mandatory label for food products that contain genetically modified ingredients."

Which sounds great, and it would be great, if it were true.

But the fact is, the DARK Act would set up a system of voluntary labeling that would overturn Vermont's labeling law and replace it with a law that's riddled with so many loopholes and exemptions that it would only apply to a very few products, and there's no enforcement mechanism and no penalties or consequences of any kind for defying the bill. It also allows for labeling GMO-containing foods to be "labeled" with a QR code, those black squares that can only be read by your smartphone or computer. That lets manufacturers say, "We labeled it!" but prevents all but the most tech-savvy consumers from figuring out what the code means.

The Vermont labeling law, by the way, isn't a law that just somehow managed to slip through Vermont's legislature: the state legislature spent two years debating it, held more than 50 committee hearings and heard testimony from more 130 representatives before passing the bill in 2010.

Monsanto is pushing its puppets to pass the DARK Act quickly this week, effectively killing Vermont's labeling law without a single hearing on the issue of labeling foods or seeds.

Despite the fact that nine of out of ten Americans support laws requiring clear GMO labeling, members on both sides of the aisle in Congress would rather pass legislation to help Agricultural giants like Monsanto pad their bottom lines instead of passing a law that nine out of ten Americans actually support.

And while conservatives normally profess to hate federal overreach and profess to love state's rights, there are bought-off politicians in both political parties pushing to pass the DARK Act and overturn Vermont's labeling law.

Opponents of GMO labeling have, in the past, said that the costs to clearly label products would require "expensive new packaging" , but the DARK Act gives the lie to that, this labeling fight is clearly about Monsanto and other agricultural giants making sure that Americans don't know what's in their food.

This law that Monsanto's puppets in Congress are pushing would cost companies roughly the same as the Vermont labeling law, because it would also require new labeling.

But instead of having a clear label, the new packaging would allow a QR code to scan or a toll-free number to call to find out whether a certain product contains GMOs.

It won't save the companies any packaging money at all, but it would make it really, really hard for shoppers to find out whether or not a product contains GMOs.

If our democracy actually worked, this bill never would have seen the light of day, because people overwhelmingly want to know what's in their food and support GMO labeling.

But our democracy doesn't work, because our lawmakers are bought and paid for by special interests, like Monsanto and DuPont.

If we want our lawmakers to pass popular laws that actually work, we need to get money out of politics, we need to overturn Citizen's United, and we need to amend the Constitution to make it clear that political bribes aren't free speech, and corporations aren't persons.

Call the offices of Senators Roberts and Stabenow to let them know what you think about actual, clear GMO labeling, and then check out for more about the campaign to get money out of politics.


Queenbeethatsme's picture
Queenbeethatsme 4 years 11 weeks ago

If the DARK act passes, our next step should be to buy only whole, plant based foods at marketers who assure bingo, organic produce..and if we can barter instead of Fiat money.

There are more ways for consumers to prevail..and processed foods are frankenfoods and not good for us anyway.

Daniel Johnson's picture
Daniel Johnson 4 years 11 weeks ago

Tom, I am usually in agreement with most of what you say. But I think your position against GMO foods is unfounded. WEBMD reports that those who have studied the field do not believe there is a danger associated with GMO foods. In fact, such foods have been on our store shelves for many years and no clear impacts on human health have been reported.

I am a research psychologist and, as a scientist, I try to go with the science. Where is the evidence – backed theory that would predict that GMO-modified foods are dangerous?

Dr. Dan Johnson

cccccttttt 4 years 11 weeks ago

Here we have a states right issue if there ever was one.

Keep the feds away from state laws on food.

Let good ideas spread from state to state.

As for keeping the money out of politics, have heard this song for decades.

Rather than rant, use your time and resources to buy more senators than the food


If the courts decree money is free speech, then speak more forcefully.


Jim Spriggs's picture
Jim Spriggs 4 years 11 weeks ago

Where is the evidence – backed theory that would predict that GMO-modified foods are dangerous?

Who cares? Let's nip this in the bud right now. Do we have a right to know what we're eating or not?

j.jonik 4 years 11 weeks ago

Maybe a better idea would be to require labeling that says, "Warning: Contains Monsanto Adulterants/Ingredients".

Or: "Warning: Approved by the US 'Regulatory' System".

kamakinky's picture
kamakinky 4 years 10 weeks ago

Since I know Thom is anti-Koch, it's hard to believe he hasn't been using the Buycott Koch phone app for the last 5 years as many of us have? It takes about 1 full minute to find packaging barcode, successfully scan it and then wait for info to upload. To do this with every product in the store on grocery shopping day would increase time in the store from 1 hour to 10 hours and, at least with my iPhone, would require another 2hrs of about 3 phone recharges. So, a 1 hour chore going to 12 hours just to know what's in your food? Seems like major store chains would be protesting this just on the basis of all of the melted ice cream and frozen foods ruined and ultimately not purchased as shoppers desperately attempt to find out what's in their food. Insanity!

Ather 4 years 10 weeks ago

Hello. I am new here so pardon me if I break any rules. Does anyone know which companies and/or corporations supported the Dark Act? I wanted to know the names of these companies who watered down the Vermont act. Would like to boycott those corporations. If anyone knows can you post that information ?

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