Pages tagged "Dark Act"
Today, the Trump Administration's Department of Agriculture (USDA) released the long-awaited final regulations for the mandatory disclosure of foods produced using genetic engineering (GE or GMO), which it calls "bioengineered foods." The final regulations include provisions which will leave the majority of GMO derived foods unlabeled; discriminate against more than 100 million Americans; and prohibit the use of the widely known terms "GMO" and "GE."
"The USDA has betrayed the public trust by denying Americans the right to know how their food is produce," stated Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety. "Instead of providing clarity and transparency, they have created large scale confusion and uncertainty for consumers, food producers, and retailers."
The majority of GE foods would not be labeled as a result of provisions that exempt highly-refined products of GMOs, and set a high 5% threshold for unintended presence of GE ingredients. Highly refined products made from GE crops, such as cooking oils, candies, and sodas, would be exempted if current testing methods are unable to detect their GE content, even though rapidly evolving test methods detect GE content in products once thought to be free of it. The 5% threshold for the unintended presence of GE ingredients in processed food is far too high – over five times higher than the European Union's 0.9% standard.
In addition, instead of requiring clear, on-package labeling in the form of text or a symbol, the final regulation allow manufacturers to use "QR codes," which are encoded images on a package that must be scanned. Real-time access to the information behind the QR code image requires a smartphone and a reliable broadband connection, technologies that are often lacking in rural areas. As a result, this labeling option discriminates against more than 100 million Americans who do not have access to this technology.
Last fall, CFS forced the public disclosure of USDA's study on the efficacy of this labeling method, which showed that it would not provide adequate disclosure to millions of Americans. Similar objections apply to USDA's text messaging option, which will involve messaging fees for some consumers. Both disclosure methods, as well as 800 numbers, are unwieldy, time-consuming, and clearly designed to inhibit rather than facilitate access to GE content information.
"USDA's own study found that QR codes are inherently discriminatory against the one third of Americans who do not own smartphones or those without access to the internet. These are predominantly rural, low income, and elderly populations," added Kimbrell. "On-package text or symbol labeling is the only fair and effective means of disclosure for GE foods."
When it comes to on-package text or symbols, the final regulations prohibit the terms best known to the public – GMO and genetically engineered – and instead only permit the unfamiliar term "bioengineered," which most consumers associate with biomedical technology. Genetic engineering and GMO have been the terms used by consumers, companies, and regulators for over 30 years. Many food companies have long used the terms genetic engineered, GE, or GMO, and thousands of products are currently labeled as such (e.g., Non-GMO).
"USDA's prohibition of the well-established terms, GE and GMO, on food labels will confuse and mislead consumers," added Kimbrell.
"Right now, organic and certified Non-GMO Project labels remain the only dependable way to avoid GMOs," stated Rebecca Spector, West Coast director at Center for Food Safety. "We applaud food companies like Campbell's, Mars, and Danone for committing to on-package labeling and we urge companies such as Kellogg's, Coca Cola, and General Mills to follow suit or they will face consumer anger, frustration, and corporate campaigns."
The regulations come out of a 2016 law signed by President Obama prohibiting state GE labeling laws and creating a federal "disclosure" program. The regulations are effective beginning January 2020. The labeling is required to be implemented by food manufacturers in January 2022.
"Unfortunately instead of putting this issue behind us, these regulations will almost certainly lead to litigation, more state legislation, and efforts to amend the federal law," stated George Kimbrell, CFS legal director. "We will explore all legal avenues to ensure meaningful labeling and protect the public's right to know."
Groups demand USDA require on-package labeling, not QR codes; Demand high-processed foods be labeled
Consumer, Environmental, Farmer Groups Demand Strong GMO Food Labeling Standards
July 3, 2018
Groups demand USDA require on-package labeling, not QR codes; Demand high-processed foods be labeled
WASHINGTON, DC — Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) and dozens of consumer, environmental, and farming organizations and companies submitted comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) on the agency’s long-awaited proposed regulations for the mandatory disclosure of foods produced using genetic engineering (GE or GMO). Collectively, the organizations submitted more than one hundred thousand comments from the general public. The law requires that USDA issue the final rules by July 29, 2018.
One of the major issues with the proposed rules is the allowance of digital QR codes instead of mandatory on-package text or symbol labeling. USDA proposes to allow manufacturers to choose to use QR codes, which are encoded images on a package that must be scanned and are intended to substitute for clear, on-package labeling. Real-time access to the information behind the QR code image requires a smartphone and a reliable broadband connection, technologies often lacking in rural areas. As a result, this labeling option would discriminate against more than 100 million Americans who do not have access to this technology. Last fall, CFS forced the public disclosure of USDA’s study on the efficacy of this labeling, which showed it would not provide adequate disclosure to millions of Americans.
“USDA should not allow QR codes as they are discriminatory and unreasonably burdensome on consumers,” stated Andrew Kimbrell, executive director at Center for Food Safety. “USDA’s own study found that QR codes are inherently discriminatory against one-third of Americans who do not own smartphones, and even more so against rural, low-income, and elderly populations or those without access to the internet. USDA should mandate on-package text or symbol labeling as the only fair and effective means of disclosure for GE foods.”
When it comes to on-package text or symbols, USDA proposes to disallow the terms “genetic engineering or GMO,” and use only the term “bioengineered,” or “BE,” despite the fact that genetic engineering and GMO have been the terms used for 30-plus years by consumers, companies, and regulators. Many food companies have long used the terms genetically engineered, GE, or GMO, and thousands of products are currently labeled as such (e.g., Non-GMO).
“USDA’s exclusion of the well-established terms GE and GMO as options will confuse and mislead consumers, and the agency must instead allow the use of those terms,” added Kimbrell.
The groups also demand that “highly refined” GE foods be covered, such as cooking oils, candies, or sodas that have ingredients derived from GE crops, but are in processed form such that in the final product, the GE content may or may not be detectable. The groups also demand that foods developed using newer forms of genetic engineering – which often go by different names such as synthetic biology, gene-editing, or CRISPR – also be labeled.
“USDA’s proposed rule is filled with loopholes that will keep consumers in the dark,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “Instead of requiring clear, straightforward labels on food packages to allow consumers to make an informed choice, USDA wants to let companies use the deceptive term ‘bioengineered’ and biased, promotional symbols to promote this technology.”
“If GMO labeling is going to be meaningful, it must include all genetic engineering, including CRISPR,” said Dana Perls, Senior Food and Technology Campaigner with Friends of the Earth. “New GMOs should not be sneaking into food and consumer products ahead of health or environmental assessments, regulations and real transparent labeling.”
The signatories to the letter include: Abundance Food Co-op, Alliance for Natural Health USA, Beyond Pesticides, Canada Organic Trade Association, Cedar Circle Farm and Education Center, Center for Food Safety, Cultivate Oregon, Dr. Bronner’s, Equal Exchange Inc, Food & Water Watch, Food Democracy Now!, Friends of Family Farmers, Friends of the Earth, Genesis Farm, GMO Free USA, Good Food Brigade, Green America, International Organic Inspectors Association, Lundberg Family Farms, National Organic Coalition, Nature’s Path Foods Inc, Northeast Organic Dairy Producers Alliance (NODPA), Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont, Northeast Organic Farming Association, Mass. Chapter (NOFA/Mass), Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families, Organic Advocacy, Organic Farmers’ Agency for Relationship Marketing, Inc. (OFARM), Organic Seed Alliance, Our Family Farms, Pesticide Action Network North America, Sierra Club, Soil Not Oil Coalition, Straus Family Creamery, The Organic & Non-GMO Report.
The USDA is seeking public comments on proposed GE Labeling rules (National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard). There are several proposals in this document, and it's a lot to read, but it is important that we take the time to let our voices be heard and make this labeling law be the best that it can be. Please take the time to read this document to be able to comment most effectively. The comment period is open for 60 days (until July 3rd) and there will not be an extension as the USDA is required by law to issue final rules by July 29th, 2018.
We'll also continue to post about some of the specific proposals that we find problematic, in order to help you hone your comment requests, in the coming days, so stay tuned.
Center for Food Safety has released a succinct write-up of the NBFDS and what the concerns are with it. Read it here.
Last week President Obama signed the DARK (Deny Americans their Right to Know) Act into law that pre-empts Vermont’s and all other state’s mandatory GMO labeling laws. This bill, passed by Congress two weeks ago, was championed by Senators Debbie Stabenow and Pat Roberts (Ranking Member and Chairman of the Senate Ag committee) along with USDA Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. It creates a federal “non-labeling” standard for foods produced in part or entirely with genetic engineering. The legislation is a gift to the pesticide and food industries who make and sell GMOs. It allows companies to use QR codes or 1-800 numbers instead of clear on-pack labeling to disclose the presence of GMOs, forcing consumers to scan the code or make a call, effectively burying and hiding the information.
Millions of American consumers have been fighting for what 64 countries around the world already require: a clear on-pack statement indicating a presence of GMO ingredients. Vermont’s law was the first in the nation and took effect July 1st, with more states soon to follow with the same requirements. Major food brands had already clearly labeled their products nationwide in response without raising prices, disclosing whether products were produced in part or entirely with genetic engineering. Over 90% of GMO crop acreage is engineered to be saturated and survive huge doses of toxic weed killers, including Glyphosate, which has been deemed a probable carcinogen by the World Health Organization. Consumers and physicians are rightly concerned about increasing residues of this and other herbicides on GMO foods as well as their impact on the environment.
This DARK Act was made possible in large part by what I and other movement leaders see clearly as the Organic Trade Association’s (OTA’s) betrayal of the movement to mandate labeling of GMOs in America, forever preempting Vermont and all other states from mandating disclosure of GMOs on packaging. Apparently Executive Director of the OTA, Laura Batcha, and board chair Missy Hughes, General Counsel of Organic Valley, with support from Organic Valley CEO George Siemon, decided to act unilaterally and endorse the Stabenow Roberts legislation, without review and approval of the OTA board. The explanation given is pathetic and self-serving: that organic products can claim to be produced without genetic engineering, which was already the case; and that dairy and meat products from animals fed GMO grain cannot automatically make a GMO-free claim. The latter is a trivial issue compared to pre-empting citizens’ right to mandate disclosure of the presence of GMOs, and should be addressed through separate litigation and legislation.
More importantly, OTA’s leadership demonstrated a complete lack of integrity and courage in standing against the biotech agenda championed by Vilsack, Roberts and Stabenow. As a movement we already went through this exact scenario in February, when Vilsack and Stabenow were leaning hard on multiple movement representatives to take this deal, myself included, and then focused on pressuring Just Label It (JLI) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to split the movement and provide enough political cover to wavering Democrats to get 60 votes to cloture. At that time movement leaders counseled JLI and EWG that the broader movement did not support making a deal that would allow the QR code plan to move forward.
Help Stop the DARK Act.
Reach out to your Senator Today!
Please consider calling your Senator and ask them to reject any federal bill, including a possible senate version of the DARK Act (Deny Americans the Right to Know) that would preempt labeling of GE food, automatically un-doing successful state laws requiting labeling, as well as nullifying any previously passed GMO bans, like in Jackson and Josephine Counties. We need to flood every Senator’s office with messages in the next few days.
Please pick up the phone and dial 202-224-3121.
The international Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classifies glyphosate, the herbicide most widely used on GE crops, as a ”probable human carcinogen” (New England Journal of Medicine).
For calls, here is a sample script:
Hi, my name is [NAME]. I am from [DISTRICT] and am calling to ask you to oppose H.R. 1599. This will take away state’s and local rights to label and regulate genetically engineered crops. It will harm family farmers and it will undermine local food rights of consumers to know what is in their food. Please protect farmers, state’s rights and my right to know and OPPOSE H.R. 1599. Thank you.
Cultivate Oregon will be tabling at the Rebel Content Tour in Portland, OR on October 7th. Come out and join us! Neil Young + Promise of the Real will be performing in support of their new album - The Monsanto Years
“The Monsanto Years are here and we are living them. Monsanto is the poster-child for what is wrong with corporate controlled government in our world. Our upcoming record, The Monsanto Years, encompasses several associated subjects that millions of people worldwide are concerned about and active in. Earth is not ours. We are of the Earth. That’s how I feel. When we plunder our own home we hurt our children and their children after them. I feel responsible.” – Neil Young.