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Consumers Union to Senate: Stop Trying to Keep Consumers in the Dark, Say No to Anti-GMO Labeling Bill

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Consumers Union to Senate: Stop Trying to Keep Consumers in the Dark, Say No to Anti-GMO Labeling Bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumers Union, the policy arm of Consumer Reports, in a letter sent today, urged the Senate to reject S. 764, called the Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act by opponents. The Senate bill, released yesterday and likely to be voted on this week, would prohibit states from requiring GMO labeling, reversing a Vermont labeling law set to go into effect in July.

Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives for Consumers Union, said, “Americans have repeatedly made it clear that they want mandatory GMO labeling, with about 90% in support. Vermont’s GMO labeling law was a direct response to this consumer call. But this bill, being pushed through Congress by biotech and food industry giants, would strip away the right to know and deny consumers across the country the information about their food that they want and deserve. By thwarting the Vermont law and preventing any other state from passing labeling legislation, the Senate would keep consumers in the dark, rather than acting on their behalf.”

The anti-consumer legislation was unveiled yesterday by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) in an attempt to move it quickly before a two-week recess. A vote on the bill, backed by major food producers like Kellogg and General Mills, as well as biotech companies like Monsanto, Dow Chemical and DuPont, could come as soon as Wednesday. Campbell Soup Company, however, recently announced it would no longer oppose the Vermont law, would start labeling its products with GMOs nationwide, and would not increase prices as a result.

Provisions in the bill call for USDA to evaluate in three years whether companies are voluntarily providing information about GMOs, either through labels or other means, such as scannable codes, websites, or call centers. If 70 percent of companies ​​are showing “substantial participation” then mandatory GMO labeling won’t be required—​regardless of consumer views.

Polls, such as a recent Mellman survey, have continually shown very high support for GMO labeling regardless of political affiliation and in all regions of the country. Electronic solutions were not popular. The same survey found that nearly nine in 10 American voters would prefer a printed GMO label on the food package over scannable bar codes. Only eight percent preferred the scannable code, with just three percent saying they “regularly” use a QR code.

“Labeling genetically engineered food is not some extreme notion. We label food that is frozen, made from concentrate, or homogenized, fish that is farmed, and the country where canned goods originate. Consumers simply want to know what’s in their food – and busy shoppers want to see that on the package, rather than having to go through a complicated, multi-step process to scan a QR code or call a 1-800 number,” said Halloran. “We’ve already seen that voluntary labeling doesn’t get results – the current system is voluntary, and it has almost never been used by food producers. This legislation would ensure that consumers remain confused and in the dark about what’s in their food. We strongly urge Senators to stand up for consumers and vote no.”

Contact:  David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org or Kara Kelber, kara.kelber@consumer.org202-462-6262