What would you think of a law that clearly discriminates against rural Americans, lower income Americans, minorities and the elderly? No chance of getting passed, right? Wrong. The Senate is poised to pass such a bill.
The revised Dark Act, sponsored by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), has been introduced as an amendment to S. 764, and would preempt the laws of Vermont, Connecticut, Maine and Alaska that call for the labeling of genetically engineered food and substitute an unconscionable, discriminatory alternative. The Roberts bill is so discriminatory it may be unconstitutional and a violation of equal treatment under the law.
Polls show that close to 90 percent of Americans want to know whether the foods they purchase were produced using genetic engineering. Several states have responded by passing laws that require a statement on the food package that the food was produced or may have been produced with genetic engineering. Vermont’s law is scheduled to go into effect on July 1 of this year.
But Monsanto and the major chemical and food companies now facing that deadline are doing everything they can to undermine the American people’s right to know about their food. So even though 64 countries around the world have GE labeling, and the companies have to label in those countries, they have spent well over $100 million in the first six months of 2015, according to federal lobbying disclosure reports.
Now they have gone to the Senate and pushed a bill that rescinds the states’ labeling laws, and bans any future state labeling laws, and substitutes instead only a voluntary labeling scheme that allows this labeling to be through QR codes, websites and call-in numbers rather than on package labels.
Studies show that half of low-income people do not even have smartphones. This Senate bill shuts them out of knowing what is in their food. Almost half of rural people do not own smartphones. So they are discriminated against as well. And minorities are a disproportionate percentage of low-income and rural Americans so this is also discriminatory against them. Two-thirds of the elderly do not own smartphones so they won’t be using QR codes or websites in the supermarket. In fact only 64 percent of Americans own a smartphone.
Moreover, smartphones and data plans are expensive and nearly half of those who have smartphones have had to cancel or shut off their cell phone service for a period of time because the cost of maintaining that service was a financial hardship. Even those who have the phones and a service plan are not guaranteed consistent access to the Internet, and far fewer than that have ever used a QR code — only 16 percent have ever scanned a QR code and only 3 percent of those people do it regularly. So the Roberts bill scheme to allow a voluntary labeling based on QR codes is on its face discriminatory against the poor, the rural, minorities, the elderly and other groups less likely to own a smartphone or know how it is used.
This is such obvious discrimination it would seem sufficient in itself to deep-six the bill. But the chemical and Big Food lobbies are very powerful and may have the votes to permanently hide what is in our food from tens of millions of Americans.