“H.R. 1599, the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015, also referred to as the Deny Americans the Right to Know Act (DARK Act), is an affront to transparency, democracy, and consumer rights. During consideration of the bill, I spoke in strong opposition to H.R. 1599, which allows for voluntary labeling of genetically-engineered food, but does not require it. This bill goes against the wishes of nine out of ten Americans calling for mandatory labeling, making a mockery of transparency and leaving U.S. consumers in the dark.
Why deprive Americans of the ability to make educated choices about whether they want food with genetically modified ingredients?
Why make the labeling of such food just voluntary? Why not require it, as we require basic nutrition information on processed foods?
We should join 64 other countries, including the European Union, Japan, Australia, Brazil, and China in empowering our constituents with information about the food they eat and feed their families.
Hawai’i is the number one state for experimental genetically engineered plant field trials. Many Hawaii residents are very concerned about these GE crop field testings because of the lack of information about these trials and the pesticides that are being applied to the fields.
On the island of Kaua’i, residents organized and passed an ordinance requiring large agrichemical companies to disclose the pesticides they are spraying and observe buffer zones around schools, homes, and hospitals to prevent chemical spray drifts.
Additionally, Hawai’i Island passed legislation to ban the cultivation of genetically-engineered coffee to protect the global reputation of Hawai’i’s famous and unique Kona coffee. Two counties also ban the cultivation of genetically-engineered taro, a main staple and a culturally significant plant for indigenous Native Hawaiians.
The DARK Act could overrule all of these laws and the rights of local communities in making such decisions to protect their health and safety, and inhibit their ability to guide the growth of their local agricultural industries. Unfortunately, the amendments that I offered to preserve state and local authority to regulate the cultivation of GE plants, and establish buffer zones around schools, were not allowed to come to the House floor for a vote.
Congress must pass a single, uniform, mandatory national labeling system, such as the one proposed by H.R. 913, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, of which I am an original cosponsor. I support the labeling of GE food products because people have a right to know what is in the food they eat, and will continue to oppose legislation that decreases transparency and violates consumer rights.”