New York State Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, Representatives from 10 States Send Letter to Obama Urging him to Veto “DARK Act”

Industry-backed bill, which heads to president’s desk, will deny Americans standard GMO labeling
July 7, 2016

New York, NY – Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal (D/WF-Manhattan), along with 19 of her colleagues from 10 states across the country who are sponsors of state-level legislation to require mandatory on-package labeling of genetically modified organism (GMO) food products, today sent a letter to President Obama urging him to veto Senate Bill 764, the DARK (Denying Americans the Right to Know) Act. The DARK Act would expressly preempt state-level efforts to require mandatory on-package GMO labeling and instead would create a convoluted regulatory scheme that would confuse, rather than inform, consumers. SB 764 would allow packaged food manufacturers to decide whether to affix an on-package label or instead a QR code, which would require the consumer to scan the product using a smart phone to determine GMO information. Smaller manufacturers would be exempted altogether, and would instead simply be required to offer consumers an on-package phone number or URL from which to obtain additional information about GMO content. “SB 764 must be revealed for what it really is: a biotech industry-sponsored attempt to deny American consumers the transparency that consumers enjoy in 64 other countries that require mandatory labeling,” said Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal, prime sponsor of Assembly bill A.617-C, which would require mandatory GMO labeling in New York State. “We, the signers of this letter, are standing firm in the face of blatant corporate intimidation to demand transparency for our constituents and consumers nationwide.” Currently, 17 states have either passed legislation or have bills pending to require mandatory on-package GMO labeling. Vermont’s first-in-the-nation labeling law took effect on July 1, 2016, and many believe that it is the catalyst for the hasty push in favor of the industry-sponsored DARK Act. More than 90 % of Americans support GMO labeling because they demand to know what is in the food that they eat and feed to their families. The sponsors of state-level GMO labeling bills and laws, who have been the subjects of intense lobbying by the biotech industry, have asked President Obama to veto the DARK Act and instead allow state-level legislation to move forward. Though lobbying dollars have not been totaled for 2016, in 2014 the food and biotech industry reported $63.6 million in direct spending to defeat state level GMO labeling efforts; in 2015 that figure nearly doubled to $101.4 million. Singers include the following: Jeffrey Dinowitz, New York State Assembly; Kenneth P. Lavalle, New York State Senate; Scott Kawasaki, Alaska State Legislature; Geran Tarr, Alaska State Legislature; Chris Tuck, Alaska State Legislature; Diana Urban, Connecticut State Legislature; David Koehler, Illinois State Senate; David Burns, Maine State Legislature; Michelle Dunphy, Maine State Legislature; Ellen Story, Massachusetts State Legislature; John Marty, Minnesota State Senate; Roger Singer, New Jersey State Senate; Joseph F. Vitale, New Jersey State Senate; Blake A. Filippi, Rhode Island State Legislature; Carolyn W. Partridge, Vermont State Legislature; Michael Sirotkin, Vermont State Legislature; Kathryn Webb, Vermont State Legislature; Teo Zagar, Vermont State Legislature; David Zuckerman, Vermont State Legislature. The letter is below.

The President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500 Dear Mr. President: We write as the prime sponsors of state legislation to require mandatory on package labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs). We respectfully request that should it make it to your desk for consideration, you veto Senate Bill 764, which would expressly preempt state action on GMO labeling and create a confusing federal regulatory scheme. While federal action is often preferred to avoid creating a patchwork of state laws, the federal legislation currently under consideration would create just the patchwork that we so often seek to avoid. It would additionally place the burden of parsing incoherent regulation squarely on the shoulders of consumers. While S.B 764 would mandate labeling and expressly preempt any state action on GMO labeling, it would allow manufacturers to determine whether to affix a label on the product package or in the alternative to affix a QR code, which the consumer could scan using a smart phone. That assumes, of course, that all Americans have access to smart phones, that all supermarkets, grocery stores, delis, bodegas and other places where packaged food is sold to consumers across the county provide reliable access to the internet and that consumers, racing through the store on the way home from an eight-hour work day before stopping to pick up the kids from daycare and getting home to cook a healthy and nutritious dinner have the luxury of time this legislation would require to stop and scan the QR code of each and every product before they toss it in their cart. In addition, smaller manufacturers would be exempted from the labeling requirements altogether, and will instead simply be required to offer consumers an on-package phone number or URL from which to obtain additional information about GMO content. Consumers will be easily confused by these inconsistent requirements, and it is easy to foresee situations in which a consumer could fairly but incorrectly conclude that a product is GMO-free simply because it does not contain an on-package label. Though there are currently 17 state laws pending or passed, the laws we authored are striking for their commonalities and not their differences. Allowing these state laws to proceed would create a far more standard approach to food product labeling than the federal bill under consideration. The vast majority of Americans, in fact more than 90%, support GMO labeling because like us, they believe they have a right to know what is in the food they eat and feed to their families. Allowing S.B. 764 to become law would deny Americans information that they have deemed is critical to their purchasing decisions by creating a confusing and convoluted labeling scheme. As state legislators who have stood firm in the face of intense opposition from the biotechnology industry and its powerful lobby to protect consumers and their families, we respectfully ask that you stand with us now and veto S.B. 764 should it come before you. Thank you. Most Respectfully, Linda B. Rosenthal
Member of Assembly – 67th AD Jeffrey Dinowitz
New York State Assembly Kenneth P. Lavalle
New York State Senate Scott Kawasaki
Alaska State Legislature Geran Tarr
Alaska State Legislature Chris Tuck
Alaska State Legislature Diana Urban
Connecticut State Legislature David Koehler
Illinois State Senate David Burns
Maine State Legislature Michelle Dunphy
Maine State Legislature Ellen Story
Massachusetts State Legislature John Marty
Minnesota State Senate Roger Singer
New Jersey State Senate Joseph F. Vitale
New Jersey State Senate Blake A. Filippi
Rhode Island State Legislature Carolyn W. Partridge
Vermont State Legislature Michael Sirotkin
Vermont State Legislature Kathryn Webb
Vermont State Legislature Teo Zagar
Vermont State Legislature David Zuckerman
Vermont State Legislature