The DARK Act – Was President Obama right to sign?

dark act
Neil Young, 22/06/2008 Firenze, Nelson Mandela Forum (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Apart from enjoying his music for nigh on 50 years, Neil Young has impressed me with his environmental work. His concern over the Dark Act and his contribution to ‘Farm Aid’ over many years inspired me to write this article. In it I look at the GMO labeling law and what is the DARK Act.

What is the DARK Act?

Deny Americans the Right to Know.

The American House of Representatives passed legislation, known as the ‘Dark Act’, on 23rd July 2015 by 275 to 150 votes.

When it was passed by the Senate, Americans were denied the right to know what is in their food. Anyone who cares about genetic engineering and what we and our families are fed by the giants of the food industry should be mightily concerned by the potential effect of that piece of legislation.

Victory for Monsanto – Why did Obama sign the DARK Act into law?

Why did Obama sign the DARK Act, when 90% of Americans want concise GMO-labels on food packaging, is something I can’t answer. The politicians voted in favour of chemical and biotech corporations. Despite his promise to the people, Obama gifted the giants of the food industry in the USA a windfall.

2016 – President Obama signed into law a bill best described as the Denying Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, striking down Vermont’s popular, democratically enacted law requiring clear, easy to read GMO labels on food packaging. The bill also pre-empts labeling laws in Connecticut, Maine, Alaska and seed labeling laws in Vermont and Virginia while also preventing other states from adopting similar legislation in the future.

Over 90% of Americans support clear mandatory GMO labeling, but President Obama signed this giveaway to the Big Food industry, despite promising Americans he would label GMOs as part of his 2008 presidential run. The DARK Act, supported by Senators Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), as well as trade groups representing the Big Food industry like the Grocery Manufacturers Association and biotech companies such as Monsanto, is an unfortunate example of how powerful corporations and moneyed interests have taken over our democracy.

The DARK Act is a blow to transparency around our food—it imposes a weak labeling requirement with no penalties for noncompliance, gives food companies the option to include QR codes or 1-800 numbers on packages, rather than clear labeling, and, thanks to loopholes in the bill, will likely leave many GMO ingredients exempt from any labeling requirements. The USDA will have 2 years to come up with their guidelines for this law.

While the DARK Act is a setback to ultimately knowing what’s in our food, our work isn’t done yet. Food & Water Watch will continue fighting to hold the elected officials who voted for this bad bill accountable, while also working to fix the regulatory system that currently rubberstamps so many GMO products.

Christian Detisch

The GMO labeling law

The GMO labeling law and its regulations seem to have sufficient loopholes to allow producers the opportunity to avoid full disclosure. Food processors must inform consumers if their product contains genetically modified organisms. One of the loopholes seems to be, that many ingredients are made from raw material which is bioengineered but is so refined that the genetic material is destroyed.

Those foods do not have to be declared as bioengineered.

Genetically modified foods

Genetically modified food has been sold in the USA since 1994, and America is the world’s largest producer. In 2001 a Cornell University project estimated over 60% of food in the USA contained at least one ingredient that had been genetically engineered. However, it seems ignorance has prevailed for a quarter of a century, and over 60% of the general public still appears to lack awareness and understanding of genetically modified foods. (McFadden and Lusk 2016 online survey)

Genetic engineering history

Genetic changes happen in nature through breeding and mutation. We have bred animals to achieve the results we desire for centuries. Fruits and vegetables have mutated naturally and have also been helped along by man using ingenuity and biotechnological techniques. Genetically engineered foods are approved in many countries, but the method or lack of labelling varies from country to country.

Do people understand food?

But it would appear that detailed information about the ingredients is of little value to most people because they are ignorant of food quality, balance and nutritional value. So it either comes down to trust or apathy.

Consumers should be concerned about what they eat, but if they are ignorant about what they should eat and whether the food contains the right nutrition, it is all guesswork. There is plenty of information available but how many of us are prepared to study the subject to improve our health and well-being. We must strive to improve the attitudes of producers and educate everyone to ensure a healthier society.

It doesn’t seem right, whatever the level of consumer knowledge, that adequate standards of disclosure should not be adhered to, and there should be enough information printed on foodstuffs so consumers can make their own decisions to buy or not.

A Message from Neil Young

On the same day, 23rd July 2015, singer/songwriter, Neil Young posted “A Message from Neil Young” on Facebook.

Vote in the House

Vote in the House

As I write this, the DARK Act is up for a vote in the House of Representatives; representatives of the people. The DARK Act takes away the rights of those people to vote for or against things like GMO labelling in their states. It does seem ironic. If the act is passed, it will truly be a dark day for America.

Monsanto is a corporation with great wealth, now controlling over 90% of soybean and corn growth in America. Family farms have been replaced by giant agri-corp farms across this great vast country we call home. Farm aid and other organizations have been fighting the losing battle against this for 30 years now.

Dairy and meat farming is done in those white sheds you see from the freeway, no longer on the green pastures of home with the old farmhouses and barns. Those beautiful buildings now stand in ruin across the country. This has happened on our watch while the country slept, distracted by advertising and false information from the corporations. Monsanto and others simply pay the politicians for voting their way. This is because of “Citizens United”, a legislation that has made it possible for corporations to have the same rights as people, while remaining immune to people’s laws.

Neil Young

Democrats and Republicans are in bed with Monsanto.

Both Democratic and Republican front runners are in bed with Monsanto, from Clinton to Bush, as many government branches are and have been for years. This presidential election could further cement the dominance of corporation’s rights over people’s rights in America. If you have a voice you have a choice. Use it.

On the human side, the film I would like you to see tells the story of a farming family in America, but the same thing is happening around the world. It is a story that takes 10 minutes of your time to see. It is a simple human one, telling the heart-breaking story of one man who fought the corporate behemoth Monsanto, and it illustrates why I was moved to write The Monsanto Years.

The film presents a rare opportunity to hear from the source as Mr. White is one of only four farmers who is still legally allowed to speak about his case as all the others have been effectively silenced.

Thanks for reading this and I hope you look at this simple and powerful film, “Seeding Fear”.

Neil Young

The DARK Act Fact Sheet

Read more about the DARK Act here.

The Monsanto Years & the DARK Act

Neil’s 36th album ‘The Monsanto Years’ was reviewed by the Guardian on 28th June 2015.

Watch the making of ‘The Monsanto Years’ film and listen to the music.

Neil Young’s influence on Social Change

Neil Young: Heart of Gold
Neil Young: Heart of Gold (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Neil was one of my Top Ten musicians who influenced social change and featured in my article.


  1. “There is no time yet for a pause
    Our lives are not so near the end.
    Do not you now desert the cause
    Go well my dear and distant friend”

    Indeed, James.

  2. I had to look “droll” up never heard that word before. It’s always exciting to learn a new one. And yes I’m a bit odd, hey I live in Russia. By the way, are you interested in doing an interview? I know you did a guest post with me a while back. I think my readers would love to read what really compelled you to move overseas, what are the pros and cons, kind of a nitty gritty kind of interview. Let me know.

  3. Great post, it’s disturbing what’s happening in the States. The country we all grew up in is being destroyed by the corporations that helped build it to what it is today. Why has Monsanto achieved so much power? Past presidents dismantled and broke down the mega-corps of the past only to have them rise again. They don’t want to be culpable which is very dangerous not only for the people but the country. If they don’t step up and change their own paradigm their very existence is questionable. One very interesting thing I’ve learned while living here in Russia. They absolutely despise big business and don’t trust them at all. They understand that these giants only became huge by dishonest means. People have a responsibility to stop this not just for themselves but for future generations. LIGHT always conquers DARK.

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