The DARK Act Is Back—Here’s What You Need to Know

Last Update: January 6, 2023

The food companies and their political proxies are relentless.

They’ll stop at nothing to make sure you don’t know what’s in your food. Now, they’re back with a new version of a federal bill that would essentially kill efforts to label genetically modified foods forever. The Senate bill, introduced this week by Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), will be considered by Senate Agriculture Committee members on Thursday. Supporters will likely try to pass the bill before July 1, when a Vermont law requiring all products sold in the state to label foods containing GMOs will go into effect.

A version of the bill—cleverly titled “The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act” (but nicknamed “Denying Americans the Right to Know,” or DARK Act)—passed the House last year, and getting through the Senate would bring it closer to becoming the law of the land.

 So what does this legislation mean for you? Lots. The DARK Act:

  • Makes GMO labeling voluntary: By bypassing a mandatory labeling law, Roberts’ bill puts the power of GMO transparency in the hands of the food corporations that oppose it. Companies have had 15 years to voluntarily label genetically modified foods, and just one—Campbell’s—has committed to doing so. It’s unlikely that any new companies will voluntarily label genetically modified foods without federal legislation requiring it.
  • Nullifies and pre-empts state and local GMO laws: A federal labeling law would immediately nullify mandatory labeling legislation passed in several states, including Vermont. The DARK Act goes further than that, though, preemptively nullifying any future state or local laws concerning genetically engineered foods.
  • Protects the interests of big food corporations: Pitted against one another in the battle for the soul of food transparency are some of the world’s largest agricultural, food, and chemical companies on one side, and much of the environmental and food safety community on the other. Companies like Monsanto donate huge amounts of money to politicians to protect their interests. Roberts, for instance, who introduced the DARK Act into the Senate, has received nearly $1 million over the course of his career from large-scale agricultural services firms and their political action committees. These companies say mandatory labeling will increase food prices for ordinary consumers—which isn’t true. In reality, they’d simply rather keep us in the dark about what’s lurking in our food.
  • Ignores the will of American consumers and makes us less safe: Almost 90 percent of Americans—Democrats, Republicans, young, old, and everything in between—favor mandatory GMO labeling. 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. The stakes are just too high, and if genetically modified ingredients are legal, American consumers should know when the food we eat contains them.

Roberts may have an uphill battle getting the votes to pass the DARK Act, but let’s not take anything for granted: Contact your Senator today and let them know what you think about the food industry’s efforts to keep us in the dark about GMOs.

Photo credit: Gozha Net via Unsplash

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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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