Why Obama should veto DARK Act

SUBHEAD: 7 reasons Obama shouldn't sign this bailout bill for the GMO industry labeling requirements.

By David Murphy on 29 July 2016 for Medium.com -

Image above: Image of information card in original article.

IB Publisher's note: Tell Obama to veto GMO DARK bill here (And sign a White House Petition here: (http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/go/1999)]

It’s unconstitutional; it discriminates against the elderly and poor and creates a permanent digital divide between the Haves and Have Nots.

A nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people. John F. Kennedy

If you want to know whom your elected officials actually work for in Congress, the recent passage of a controversial bill that alleges to label “bioengineered” foods is a good start.

For more than a year, members of Congress have been tripping over themselves to craft a “national solution” to the common sense notion that foods that have been genetically engineered should contain simple labels that say, “produced with genetic engineering” on the product’s packages.

Ironically, after more than 20 years of Congress doing everything it could to ignore the issue, the tiny state of Vermont forced Congress, Monsanto and Big Food’s hand when it successfully passed the nation’s first stand-alone GMO labeling bill.

Vermont’s historic bill went into effect on July 1st of this year. On July 7th, the U.S. Senate passed legislation that negated Vermont’s law and actually made it illegal for other states to pass bills that label GMOs.

If the public needs a reminder of how the sausage factory in our nation’s capital actually works, this corrupt bargain is a case study of everything that is wrong with politics today.

The bill now sits on President Obama’s desk, where it awaits his signature. But if Obama hears the call of the American people — 90% of whom support mandatory GMO labeling — he will rightfully veto this bill.

Here are some details on the 7 Reasons President Obama Should Veto S. 764 — The Great Monsanto Bailout.

1. Tramples States’ Rights

It’s often claimed in important political battles that Republicans stand for states’ rights over an “intrusive” federal government. Ironically, both the House and Senate are controlled by Republicans, who not only have large margins in both chambers, but were also adamant in making sure that Monsanto’s corrupt bargain was forced through in record time.

Why would Republicans trample on their own principled stance on states’ rights? Well, Senator Roberts, the chief author of the bill, let us all know his motivations when he proudly admitted in an interview with Bloomberg News that the bill would “save” the agricultural biotech industry.

Apparently Monsanto’s profits and campaign contributions are more important than some Republicans’ principles.

2. The Bill is Voluntary NOT Mandatory

The bill contains no provision for enforcement, with zero financial penalties for non-compliance and even non-compliant food cannot be recalled.

The bill creates a system that is effectively voluntary, not mandatory — essentially a non-labeling bill kicks states’ actual labeling bills to the curb.

Congress has given food manufacturers 3 options: QR codes and 1–800 numbers, some unknown symbol or the food industry’s least favorite option — 4 simple words — “produced with genetic engineering”.

3. Poor Definitions Create Poor, Unworkable Policy

This legislation is so poorly written that according to the FDA — the agency traditionally tasked with labeling food — it contains a deeply flawed definition of “bioengineered” that would render the bill unenforceable.

According to the FDA’s own legal experts:
“The definition of “bioengineering” (new sec. 291) would result in a somewhat narrow scope of coverage. First, in subparagraph (A), the phrase “that contains genetic material” will likely mean that many foods from GE sources will not be subject to this bill. For instance, oil made from GE soy would not have any genetic material in it. Likewise, starches and purified proteins would not be covered.”
The industry likes to claim that GMO food products are equivalent or not genetically engineered if the processing of that food removes the GMO traits. Unfortunately, this does not live up to scrutiny when you consider that the main chemical these crops have been genetically engineered to be sprayed with, glyphosate or Roundup, actually does end up in your food — a fact that the USDA, FDA and EPA should be well aware of.

4. Subverts Democracy, Science and the First Amendment
According to the FDA’s legal analysis of the bill, if enacted, the policy could actually result in critics of bioengineered foods — including individuals, non-profits and even scientists being penalized or “subject to sanctions.” According to the FDA’s legal memo, Monsanto’s S. 764:
“would require the USDA regulations to “prohibit a food derived from an animal to be considered a bioengineered food solely because [of a certain fact]”. This is unclear — the language of “prohibit[ion]” and of ‘be[ing] considered”, if taken literally, would mean that an advocacy group that thought of these foods as being bioengineered would thereby have violated the USDA regulation and could be subject to sanctions.”
The implications of this are chilling for free speech, democracy and dissent.

5. Enshrines the Digital Divide for Corporate Profit over Public Good

Because QR codes are the preferred mechanism for disclosure in S. 764, and since most companies are working to avoid printing the four simple words “produced with genetic engineering”, numerous technical and legal hurdles have now been created for more than 30% of the American public, which do not own, cannot afford or do not have access to smartphones or the Internet.

Congress has intentionally created a permanent divide between those who have access to digital technology and those who do not, on an issue so important and fundamental to life as access to food, simply because Monsanto and Big Food are afraid that Americans won’t buy food products that state “produced with genetic engineering”.

Sorry Monsanto, but our rights don’t end where your fear of the American public begins.

6. Violates the 14th Amendment of the Constitution and Creates Permanent Underclass by Limiting Access to Vital Information

The current bill violates the U.S. Constitution’s mandate for equal protection and due process to all Americans under the 14th Amendment, which provides that no state shall deny any person “equal protection of the laws.”

The discriminatory nature of the bill will deny the elderly, poor — many minorities, rural Americans and even some religious groups’ (e.g. the Amish) access to basic information about their food, leaving behind nearly a third of all Americans that do not own or can’t afford or choose not to use (on religious grounds) this modern technology.

According to Pew Research Center, only 64% of Americans own a smartphone, while only 52% of rural Americans, 50% of low- income people and 27% of seniors own smartphones.

This means that of the 46.2 million elderly people in the United States more than 33 million elderly Americans won’t be able to find out what’s in their food.

7. Threatens Organic Standards, Opens Up Possibility to “Harmonize” GMOs into Organics
Beyond these legal obstacles is the real possible threat to the future of organic standards with the language regarding consistency between the definitions of bioengineered and the Organic Food Production Act of 1990. Under a future USDA Secretary these rules could be interpreted in a way that eliminates the organic prohibition of GMOs and biotechnology.

By signing this bill, President Obama could unintentionally endanger the organic industry to the real threat of being forced to re-define its entire ethical production standards, which clearly prohibit GMO technology.

I don’t think this is the legacy President Obama or the First Lady want to be remembered by.

This bill would deny that basic right to tens of millions of Americans and create a permanent digital divide between the haves and have-nots. Americans deserve better than this.

The only legal, ethical and moral thing to do is for President Obama to veto this disastrous, poorly written bill to remind his fellow Americans that yes, there still is one responsible adult left in Washington DC, even if we don’t find much evidence of that fact in the news lately.

Mr. President, keep your 2007 promise to Iowa’s farmers and all Americans to label GMOs and veto this terrible bill. Congress may not like it, but future generations will thank you.
See also:
 Ea O Ka Aina: Tell Obama to veto GMO DARK Bill 67/22/16
 "Show Me the Movement!", Center for a Livable Future, March 24, 2009
 See how your Senator Voted on this procedural motion to Kill States’ Rights and Vermont’s Historic GMO Labeling Law!
 “FDA concerned with GMO labeling 'compromise'”, The Hill, June 30, 2016
 "What Senate Backers Aren't Saying About the GMO "compromise" bill", The Hill, July 1, 2016
 Agribusiness: Money to Congress, OpenSecrets


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