People want to know more — not less — about their food. I’ve had countless conversations in recent years with Zingerman’s Roadhouse customers stemming from questions about how the food we serve was produced.

So, it didn’t surprise me when I heard about a recent survey that found 86 percent of Michiganians favor requiring labels for genetically engineered (or “GMO”) foods.

But some members of Michigan’s congressional delegation have been pushing hard to keep labels off GMO foods and deny our right to know (Re: Rep. John Moolenaar’s July 30 guest column, “Genetic modifications demand new transparency for food.”) Republican Reps. Dan Benishek, Candice Miller and Moolenaar and Democratic Rep. Brenda Lawrence co-sponsored a bill introduced by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., that would allow companies to keep information about GMOs in their food hidden from consumers.

Supporters of this bill who tout its supposed transparency, like Moolenaar does, seem to be confused about what the bill would actually do if signed into law.

House bill 1599, described by many as the “Deny Americans the Right to Know” or “DARK” Act, would make it nearly impossible for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to label GMOs nationally and would pre-empt states that already have labeling laws on the books from implementing them, and block any future attempts by states to pass GMO labeling laws.

Troublingly, the bill also attempts to define the word “natural” to include foods produced with GMO ingredients. There is already a significant amount of consumer confusion around products labeled “natural.” To define the word in such a way as to include GMOs would just make matters worse.

We sell all kinds of foods at Zingerman’s Roadhouse because we understand that people value choice. But in order for people to have a clear understanding of what foods they are choosing between, information has to be readily available.

Supporters of the DARK Act that claim people who want to choose non-GMOs or organic foods already have that choice are ignoring the segment of the population that doesn’t have ready access to certified organic food. Instead of only some people knowing that some foods are non-GMO, doesn’t it make more sense to just label GMOs everywhere and trust consumers to decide for themselves?

In addition, farmers and food companies have already established systems to segregate GMO and non-GMO commodities to serve our trading partners and to meet demand for non-GMO and organic products. More than 60 nations require GMO labeling, and food prices in those nations have not increased.

Survey after survey show roughly 90 percent of all Americans, including the vast majority of Republicans, Democrats and independents, want mandatory labeling laws regardless of age, education or race.

The fight over the DARK Act now moves to the Senate. It’s my hope that Sens. Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters stand with the 86 percent of their constituents and oppose the DARK Act because all Michiganians have the right to know what is in their food and how it’s grown.

Alex Young

Chef and managing partner,

Zingerman’s Roadhouse, Ann Arbor

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