Huge Win for Transparency: The ‘DARK Act’ Just Got Shut Down by the Senate

Last Update: January 6, 2023

We’ve been trying not to keep you in the dark about a scary bill that has been lurking in the halls of Congress for the last year or so—the so-called “Denying Americans the Right to Know,” or DARK Act. To bring you up to speed, the DARK Act was just the latest effort by large-scale food and biotech companies to make sure you don’t know what’s in your food.

The law—which passed the House last year—was re-introduced this session in the Senate and would have pre-empted and nullified state laws requiring genetically modified foods to be labeled by making labeling optional for food companies. Supporters were trying to pass the bill before July 1, when a Vermont law requiring all products sold in the state to label foods containing GMOs goes into effect.

We say “were trying not to keep you in the dark” because today, the bill was narrowly defeated in the Senate by a bipartisan coalition, effectively killing it. Many of the senators who opposed the bill did so on the grounds that a voluntary labeling law—which relied primarily on QR codes, websites, and call-in numbers—did not go far enough for food transparency and discriminated against lower-income Americans who don’t own smartphones.

The Center for Food Safety, which has for years fought for GMO labeling, mailed letters to every senator opposing the bill it called “the Monsanto bailout.” CFS’s executive director Andrew Kimbrell celebrated the failure of the DARK Act Wednesday. “The defeat of the DARK Act is a major victory for the food movement and America’s right to know,” Kimbrell said in a statement. “It also is an important victory for democracy over the attempt of corporate interests to keep Americans in the dark about the foods they buy and feed their families.”

Almost 90 percent of Americans—Democrats, Republicans, young, old, and everything in between—favor a law that requires food companies to state whether a product contains GMOs right on the label. There have been virtually no studies proving the safety of foods made with genetically modified ingredients, and yet GMOs create the need to spray even more pesticides and herbicides on the food we eat.

Several states —Vermont, Connecticut, Maine, and Alaska—have passed laws regulating the labeling of genetically engineered foods. Vermont’s law, which goes farther than the others in requiring labels, is set to go into effect July 1, prompting fierce backlash from food companies—which say, falsely, that labels will raise their costs and increase food prices.

Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R), opposed the DARK Act after the Food and Drug Administration’s decision earlier this year to approve genetically engineered salmon, which she sees as a threat to her state’s wild salmon stocks.

“I know Alaska well. I also well know the immense value of our fisheries and the potential for havoc that something like this Frankenfish could wreak upon our wild, sustainable stocks,” Murkowski told the Huffington Post.

“We will not accept that it will be allowed to be sold without clear labeling, because I don’t want to make any mistakes,” she added. “I don’t want to find that what I have served my family is a genetically engineered fish. And I use ‘fish’ lightly.”

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Steve Holt

Steve Holt's stories about food, nutrition and food politics are found at Civil Eats,, Boston Magazine, and elsewhere. He's been featured in the Best Food Writing anthology. Follow his tweets and Instagrams @thebostonwriter.

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