Stop The DARK Act Now!

This just in from “Oregon Right To Know Team”

Last week, the Senate Agriculture Committee voted 14-6 to pass the DARK Act (S. 2609), and now we’re hearing that this devastating legislation could reach the Senate floor between now and early April.
Monsanto’s dream bill already passed the House, so this Senate floor vote is critical if we want to stop the DARK Act from becoming law.

We need EVERY food activist to pick up the phone right away and dial 1-877-796-1949 to urge your Senators to VOTE NO on S. 2609.

We all know what’s at stake here: Under the DARK Act, it would be illegal for states to require GMO labeling, even though polls show that 93% of Americans support labeling efforts.
This law would not only prevent future GMO labeling requirements, but would actually kill laws previously passed by voters, including the first-of-its-kind Vermont law set to take effect in July, which would require labels on GMO food.  AS written Initiative 2012-4 that was passed in San Juan County prohibiting the growing of GM crops could be overturned.
This is our chance to protect our right to know what’s in our food and stop the DARK Act from becoming law. Please call 1-877-796-1949 to tell your Senators to OPPOSE S. 2609.

Below is a message GMO-Free SJC received from the Just Label It campaign…Gary Hirschberg, Chairman, Stonyfield Farm and Chairman, Just Label It:

Hi Colleagues, once again forgive the anonymous email, but I am sending this with urgency to my personal list of pro-labeling CEO’s and Business Leaders.

The moment for all of us to communicate to key Senators about your strong opposition to the Roberts Bill, to Donnelly’s QR code labeling “alternative” and your support for Senator Merkley’s mandatory labeling bill has now arrived.  Please call a select group of key senators, it could make a huge difference in the outcome of this fight.

UPDATE: Here is where things stand. As you know, earlier last week, it appeared that Senator Roberts had at least 52 votes in favor of the DARK Act, so we have been focused on preventing 8 additional Democrats from backing it, as well as to potentially convince a few of those 52 to reconsider their support before the likely floor vote in April.   As of Friday, it appeared that Senator Roberts now does not have the 60 votes necessary to end debate and pass his bill, as is.  This is of course very good news.  However, because a number of the farm state Democrats are under huge pressure from mainstream Ag and Food interests in their states to support some kind of effort that delays or blocks the VT law (VT 120) from taking effect on July 1st, Senator Donnelly has put forward a compromise amendment to Roberts’ bill that might enable enough Dems to join the bill to get it passed.  His proposal is essentially to give companies the choice to either adopt an on-pack label or to choose instead to use a very explicitly designed QR code that would make it easy for consumers to know whether GMOs are in their foods.  JLI remains adamantly opposed to the substitution of a QR code because we feel that it is still an attempt by big food companies to keep consumers in the dark, and so it is critical that we communicate to a specific list of Senators who we fear could support Donnelly’s compromise.

Also last week, Senator Merkley introduced a separate bill  that would in fact seek to replace VT 120 with a stronger mandatory national labeling bill.  While our first priority remains stopping the Roberts bill and allowing VT 120 to take effect, it is important that you understand that there are some real flaws in the VT 120 law which the Merkley bill addresses. VT 120 contains a safe harbor such that no enforcement will happen until January 1, 2017, which functionally gives food companies an extra 6 months to become compliant.  Moreover, VT 120 also exempts 42% of the food consumed by consumers (including foods served in restaurants, fast food chains, take-out sections in grocery stores, schools, nursing homes, jails and other institutions), and exempts dairy products from rBGH-treated cows.  While VT 120 is still a step in the right direction, it is important for you to know that the Merkley bill does not contain either the safe harbor nor the exemptions, so it is in fact stronger legislation when it comes to protecting our right to know.  So while we all try to stop the Roberts bill, we also are supporting the Merkley bill as it would get us nationwide mandatory labeling.

SUMMARY:  It is essential that the key Senators listed below hear from people like you that we are opposed to the Roberts Bill, even with the Donnelly amendment, and that we support Merkley’s bill.

KEY SENATE TARGETS (along with their office phone numbers):
Casey (D-PA) – 202-224-6324
Bennet (D-CO) – 202-224-5852
Durbin (D-IL) – 202-224-2152
Carper (D-DE) – 202-2242441
Warner (D-VA) – 202-224-2023
Franken (D-MN) – 202-2245641
Klobuchar (D-MN) – 202-224-3244
Kaine (D-VA) – 202-224-4024
Koons (D-DE) – 202-224-5042
Collins (R-ME) – 202-224-2523
King (I-ME) – 202-224-5344
Heitkamp (D-ND) – 202-224 2043
Ayotte (R-NH)– 202-224-3324
Donnelly (D-IN) – 202-224-4814
Brown (D-OH) – 202-224-2315
Menendez (D-NJ) – 202-224-4744
Hirono (D-HI) – 202-224-6361
Nelson (D-FL) – 202-224-5274

There are also three Republican Senators who may object on states’ rights grounds:
Lee (R-UT) – 202-224-5444
Paul (R-KY) – 202-224-4343
Gardner (R-CO)

KEY COMMUNICATION POINTS:

Please note that you do NOT have to have a factory, farm, store or employees in a state for your voice to be important to the Senators you reach. It is good enough that your products sell in their states and you are therefore contributing to commerce there.

Top line talking points:

* Millions of consumers support your company because of your commitment to full transparency and disclosure
* Regardless of whether or not the Senator supports GMO’s, there is no question that average citizens have the right to know and                 choose whether to buy foods containing GMO’s, but they cannot know without a label on the package.
* Polls show 90% of Americans, regardless of age, income or party affiliation, support labeling of GMO food on food packages
* 64 nations already require labeling including Russia, China, the EU, and important trading partners in Asia.
* Hundreds of food companies urged President Obama to honor his pledge to require GMO labeling.
* The DARK Act (S. 2609) would not only block state and federal GMO labeling, it would make it harder for companies like Campbell Soup to voluntarily label GMOs on their package.
* Even with some of the fixes in the Donnelly bill, polls show that Americans will not accept the QR Code as an alternative to on-pack labeling. This is simply another way to keep consumers in the dark.

Dispelling GMO Labeling Myths:

–        GMO labeling will not increase food prices. As a CEO I can tell you that companies frequently change labels to highlight new innovations or to make new claims. The world’s second largest producer of GMO crops – Brazil – implemented mandatory GMO labeling in 2003 yet claims that a mandatory disclosure would disrupt GMO expansion or cause food price increases were disproved by actual marketplace experience.

–        Labeling will not result in massive numbers of consumers suddenly seeking to switch to non GMO foods,  with resultant supply shortages.   A recent five-year study of consumer data confirmed that American consumers will not view a GMO disclosure as a warning. ( Reidel, John C. 2015. New Study: Consumers Don’t View GMO Labels as Negative ‘Warnings.’ University Commons)

–        Voluntary GMO labeling will not work. Companies have been allowed to make voluntary non-GMO disclosures since 2001, but consumers are more confused than ever.

–        There is no “patchwork quilt.” Current state GMO labeling laws are virtually identical, so there will be no “patchwork quilt” of different state laws. However, the responsible solution to concerns over a possible future patchwork would be the establishment of a uniform, national mandatory labeling standard.

–        A responsible alternative exists. Last week, an alternative proposal was introduced by Senators Merkley, Tester, Leahy and Feinstein that would provide companies with a menu of options to label GMOs on their package while eliminating the concern of a potential patchwork. This alternative is supported by both Campbell’s Soup and the Just Label It coalition.

So it all comes down to this.   Years of our work to promote GMO transparency will either succeed or fail in the next month.  Your calls now could make a big difference.