Before I say anything else, I’d like to apologize. Last week I promised to explain how the new zika vaccine works and why it might be even worse than traditional vaccines. However, I can’t do that. Zika is going to have to take a backseat this week, because right now we have a REAL crisis on our hands.
While the country was distracted by political hooey and I was distracted by things like zika and the FDA’s cave-in to Big Tobacco, something monumentally important happened. And folks, I have to confess it blind-sided me. I took my eye off the ball and I missed it. But I’m here today to remedy that.
I’m talking about a Senate bill that just might become law. A law that would be a HUGE problem if you care about your health. It’s a bill that hands our food supply straight over to Monsanto and company, and flips us all the bird. But we just might be able to stop it if we all pull together and bombard our Congress critters with calls and emails over the next days and weeks. Here’s what’s going on:
The U.S. Senate has cobbled together a bill that does away with states’ ability to require labeling of GMO foods. Like the DARK Act earlier this year, it tramples states’ rights with a wimpy federal law that technically requires labeling but in reality lets Monsanto hide its poison wherever it likes. And even worse, it stops non-GMO foods from labeling themselves as such. Here’s the deal.
Remember the DARK Act? This bill goes even further
It’s called SB 2609, and it’s been kept under wraps since March of this year. It’s a sneaky “compromise” between Republicans and Democrats, brokered by senators Pat Roberts and Debbie Stabenow. Washington learned a lesson when public outcry defeated the DARK Act, so this latest monstrosity has been kept a deep, dark secret. Because it’s even worse. It absolutely guts the whole concept of GMO labeling.
First of all, it would nullify Vermont’s GMO labeling law, which went into effect July 1st. This is a robust law that requires all GMO “foods” to be clearly labeled. SB 2609 would ban states from making any GMO labeling law that isn’t exactly the same as the federal one.
It would require food manufacturers to “disclose” which products contain GMOs, but not necessarily to label them. It would give them several options for “disclosure.” They could actually spell it out in text on the label. They could use a symbol (which has yet to be developed) like the “recycle” symbol on recyclable material. Or, they could put a QR code—a barcode that you need a smartphone and a special app to read—on the label. “Very small food manufacturers” could simply provide a phone number you have to call for more information.
If you’ve never used a QR code scanner with your phone, here’s how it works: the app uses your camera to “scan” the code by taking a picture of it. Once the code is scanned you’re taken to a webpage that tells you about the product. Both QR codes and phone numbers are ungainly, and Big Food loves the idea of them because they know most people won’t bother. But as enraging as the actual labeling rules are, they’re the least worrisome part of this bill.
This bill isn’t just about GMO labeling
SB 2609 is more about what can’t be labeled than what must be. For instance, it would actually make it illegal for foods to be labeled “non-GMO” unless they’re organic. That’s right. It specifically says that no food can be labeled “non-GMO” simply because it is non-GMO. The only foods that could legally claim non-GMO status are certified organic products. From the bill itself:
“A food may not be considered to be ‘not bioengineered’, ‘non-GMO’, or any other similar claim describing the absence of bioengineering in the food solely because the food is not required to bear a disclosure that the food is bioengineered under this subtitle.”
It also says that products from animals raised on GMO feed not only don’t have to be labeled, they’re not allowed to be labeled. So milk from cows on a daily diet of GMO feed is actually prohibited from being labeled as containing GMOs. So is meat. Or yogurt or cheese. Likewise eggs from chickens fed GMOs. Or pork from pigs fed GMOs.
There are so many exemptions and loopholes that even if the bill required the words “GMO FOOD” to be printed in inch-tall letters on every label, there’d probably be wiggle room for Big Food. But the very worst part of this monstrosity is that it changes the definition of “bioengineering.” And this is the part I’m afraid many people will miss. In the words of the bill itself, “bioengineering” refers to a food that:
Contains genetic material that has been modified through in vitro recombinant…(DNA) techniques.
For which the modification could not otherwise be obtained through conventional breeding or found in nature.
At first glance that doesn’t sound too bad. But here’s the problem: the first portion completely excludes the new “gene editing” techniques. The new CRISPR technology is a whole different thing. So anything created from here on out wouldn’t be considered GMO under the law even if it had six eyes and twelve legs.
The second portion of the definition covers pretty much everything else.
The problem is how the sentence is written. Specifically the last part. The part that says, “or found in nature.” There aren’t any typos in that sentence—it reads exactly how it does in the bill itself. And it’s missing a great big chunk in the middle. Because as it is, it can be—and undoubtedly will be—read to mean that anything found in nature can’t be considered GMO. Which is a problem.
Because the gene that makes crops resistant to Roundup is found in nature--but not in plants. It’s found in a bacterium and inserted into plants. ...But it is “found in nature.” Most of the modifications we see in GMO “foods” are found in nature—just not necessarily in the same species.
This, my friends, is a loophole the size of the Grand Canyon.
The entire bill is designed to muddy the waters so much that we’ll never be able to tell if we’re eating GMO foods. But we don’t have to sit still for this. We don’t have to take it. We defeated the DARK Act and we can defeat this too. But we MUST act, and act now. If we don’t, there’s a good chance that this abomination will pass both houses of Congress and be signed into law. And once that happens, there’s no going back.
So contact your Congresspeople TODAY. Call. Write. Email. Educate your friends and family and get them to call too—because if this legislation passes, we’ve lost all control of our food supply. Let’s not let that happen.