On May 23rd, Millions Against Monsanto protests popped up in 421 cities, in 48 countries, across 6 continents. As with last years’ protest, concerns were voiced about glyphosphate being carcinogenic, and neonicotinoids decimating bee populations. This year, however, protestors had three new issues on the agenda: opposition of the DARK act, opposition to trade deals being fast tracked through the House of Representatives, and opposition to the use of a USDA non-GMO label. While some might look at this list of concerns and miss the connections to Monsanto – and Big Ag/Big Food in general – they are all actually very closely related.
The DARK act (Deny Americans the Right to Know act) is a name assigned to critics for what is actually The Safe and Accurate Food Labelling Act, was introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan) in 2014 in an effort to block any federal or state action requiring labeling of foods made with genetically modified ingredients (GMO’s). It is a measure that would overrule the legislation which has passed in Connecticut, Maine and Vermont to create labelling laws. The DARK act puts the FDA at the helm (aka the ex-Monsanto employee landing ground). A press release from Rep. Mike Pompeo’s website states ‘The Safe and Accurate Food Labelling Act of 2015 will ensure that America’s farmers will continue to be able to innovate and improve the quality and quantity of their crops and provide nutritious, affordable food on families’ tables both here and across the world’. It goes on to say that ‘Without . . . this legislation, a patchwork of state GMO labeling laws could mislead consumers and increase food prices for families’. Of course, those who are not well-versed on the subject might have a fear-based response. What? Higher prices at the grocery store? Nutritionally deficient food? People will go hungry? I always believe, before you hear the message, follow the money – and it might surprise you to know that Rep. Pompeo’s campaigns have been funded by the very industry groups that will benefit the most from the act. The fact of the matter is that labelling is not going to drive up food costs, it hasn’t in countries where labelling already takes place. Food will not be fewer nutrients dense, and more people won’t go hungry. In actual fact, GMO crops have been around for 20 years, and across the board we are more nutrient deficient than ever, and we have not seen significant drop offs in the statistics for number of people who are starving either.
As far as trade deals being fast-tracked – The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) has been strongly opposed by a wide variety of politicians and activists who are against corporate influence on decisions made within our government, and abroad. The first attempt to fast-track the deal was rejected, but the Senate just passed a streamlined version. While there is certainly a great deal more to the bill, it does also expand trade in ways that will give more power to corporations like Monsanto.
Finally, opposition to the USDA non-GMO label was widely discussed at the marches on May 23rd. The argument for: the other USDA programs are well received and provide common standard procedure for consumers. The argument against: many of Monsanto’s ex-employees and lobbyists now work at both the FDA and USDA, and have greatly influenced regulations set by each organization, so whose interests are being represented in this particular instance is questionable. This is why many food activists prefer the work of a non-profit independent, the Non-GMO Project. Every product submitted to the Project for review goes through a rigorous 4-6 month process, during which individual ingredients are tested for GMO contamination, and tests are required to be ongoing after certification. The organization uses rigorous standards set by the National Organic Program, although verification does not require that the food itself be Certified Organic.
So, there is a snapshot of the three major issues coming out of the recent march. We recently through our own explorations found another interesting website that is worth checking out; it lists GMO crops grown by country since 1995: http://www.gmo-compass.org/eng/agri_biotechnology/gmo_planting/142.countries_growing_gmos.html
“Act Now: States’ Right to Label GMOs in Danger!”
Organic Consumers Association April 2015.
“DARK Act Reintroduced in the United States.”
GMwatch.org 25 March 2015.
“Pompeo Reintroduces Bill to Keep Food Safe and Affordable.”
Pompeo.house.gov 25 Mar 2015.
“Rep. Mike Pompeo.” Center for Responsive Politics: OpenSecret.org
Sara, Siammacco. “Big Food’s ‘DARK Act’ Introduced Into Congress.”
EWG.org 9 April 2014.