Big Win For Consumers’ Right-to-Know

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Bill Wenzel

Bill to block state GMO labeling laws fails to pass Senate


Today, the U.S. Senate failed to pass their version of the DARK Act (Denying Americans the Right to Know), which would have kept consumers in the dark about what’s in the food they eat, falling 12 votes short of the 60 required to continue the debate.

If the bill had passed, it would have:

  1. Preempted states from requiring genetically-modified organism (GMO) food labels, undoing progress made in Vermont, Connecticut, and Maine, and stopping labeling efforts in more than 30 states across the country,
  2. Enshrined the existing voluntary labeling program;
  3. Stripped the Food and Drug Administration of its jurisdiction over GMO food disclosures; and
  4. Made it harder for companies to voluntarily disclose the presence of GMOs. 

The vote largely came down to a decision on voting with the public or voting with the special interests.  Mandatory labeling of GMOs is favored by a significant majority of consumers and the Senate Bill was based on the failed voluntary labeling program currently in place, which is favored by large agriculture and grocery interest groups. 

According to a recent Mellman Group poll, 86% of likely 2016 voters said they favor “foods which have been genetically engineered or containing genetically engineered ingredients be labeled to indicate that.”  That polling demonstrated broad support that crossed party lines.

“This is a good day for consumer and a good day for our democracy,” said Bill Wenzel, Program Director with U.S. PIRG. “Despite heavy pressure from special interests seeking to stop the movement toward mandatory GMO labeling, the voices of the American public were heard.” 

Despite today’s vote, the groups fighting for mandatory GMO labeling are going to continue to make their voices heard.  The Vermont law takes effect on July 1, 2016, and there is anticipation that another attempt will be made to pass legislation to stop implementation of the law.  However, victory today may provide impetus to pass a federal GMO mandatory labeling bill.  Sen. Merkley (D-OR) along with 9 other Senators have introduced legislation to create a mandatory GMO labeling requirement.

“The victory will allow Vermont to implement its GMO labeling law and enable other states to continue to be able to pass laws to give their citizens the right to know about their food,” said Wenzel. “The rejection of voluntary labeling as demonstrated by this vote may open the door to passage of a federal, mandatory GMO labeling law and join the 64 countries world wide who have already taken that action.” 



U.S. PIRG conducts research and public education on behalf of consumers and the public interest. Our research, analysis, reports, and outreach serve as counterweights to the influence of powerful special interests that threaten our health, safety, or well-being.  Find out more at