Saturday, July 25, 2015

States' rights vs the DARK Act

How interesting. In Utah, we have 4 representatives in the House and all except one voted yes on The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act, aka, The DARK Act, an act that would preclude state and local governments from requiring food with genetically modified organisms to be labeled. All of them are staunch supporters of "states' rights", yet 3 of them voted yes on a bill to consolidate the power to require such labeling into the hands of bureaucrats in the far away land of Washington, D.C.

They are likely to be joined soon by Senator Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch of Utah, two Senators who claim to be staunch supporters of states' rights. But when it comes to this vote, states' rights go out the window. And it's not just with Utah, without question, a Red State. The vast majority of Republicans in the House voted yes on HR 1599. Here is a screenshot I found floating around the social media networks to show the final tally:


Of 246 Republicans, only 12 voted no and 4 didn't vote. The Republican rhetoric and voting behavior is about supporting states' rights and how the federal government should let the states alone. Not with this vote.

It is sad to see so many Democrats vote in favor of this bill. Maybe they have been swayed by campaign contributions from the people who deign to write public policy in spite of everyone else, the 0.1%. If you want to know how your representative voted, you can get the full list of of the vote here, at eatlocalgrown.com.

This vote shows in very clear relief the hypocrisy of the states' rights advocates in the House because HR 1599 would reserve the right to require labeling of GMO foods to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), an agency of the federal government. Compare this vote to their animosity pointed at the FCC when it comes to broadband. When it comes to broadband, their attitude is states' rights or bust.

What is the motivation for this kind of public policy? GMOs are patented and the royalties accruing from those patents are the result of an enormous government intervention in the market. This is not the free market at work. This is the government essentially handing over our money to companies like Monsanto, DuPont and Bayer. Those companies make money from crops that are modified to withstand their pest and weed controlling chemicals. They also tell us that those foods are safe, but when asked about food safety, they point to the FDA for answers.

Patents are offered as an incentive to inventors to share their inventions so that others may license the patent and propagate the benefits of the patented invention. In most cases, inventions are proudly labeled as patented by their inventors. They are righteously defended when copycats fail to pay their royalties on the use of a patent without license.

Yet, the people who modify genes in seeds for profit strenuously object to and vigorously fight any effort to require labeling. Why? They fear that people won't buy their food if they are labeled as "GMO". States and municipalities that wanted GMO labeling passed their own laws to get what they couldn't get from the federal government. The intent of this bill is to preempt state and local laws that require GMO labeling, concentrating that power into the hands of a few well placed former employees working at the FDA.

Groups like The Non-GMO Project and Just-Label-It oppose HR 1599 for the reason that the bill was written for the food manufacturing industry, not for the consumers. To get an idea of the advocates for the bill, here is a letter from the Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food (PDF), urging Congress to pass HR 1599. Read the letter then check out who signed it - nothing but corporations and associations of food manufacturers who see nothing but money in this bill.

Now who is this Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food? Those same business organizations, none of which are grassroots organizations of consumers that want strict labeling of GMOs.

So for Congressional conservatives, states' rights are only important if business interests are served. As far as they're concerned, consumers can take a hike. Why? It's OK to deceive consumers by withholding information about the food on the shelf as long as there's a check in the mail.
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