For those fighting in the war against GMO foods, labeling initiatives are of the utmost importance. Controversial GMO ingredients have infiltrated the food system for many years, but we now have the chance to make sure they are labeled so that people have a direct and transparent indicator of GMO presence. Right now, Japan, China, Europe, Brazil, India and Australia are among 64 countries that require GMO labeling of some kind. Isn’t it about time the U.S. follows suit?
Washington’s GMO labeling initiative, I-522, was brought to the ballot by roughly 350,000 citizens. The Washington Secretary of State’s office stated that supporters of the initiative had submitted about 19,000 petitions and 350,000 signatures on Jan. 3, 2013. Following the loss of 2012’s Proposition 37 (or “Prop 37”), California’s GMO labeling initiative, Washington’s labeling initiative is of particular importance because it picks up the battle where Prop 37 left off. Washington state, home to many agricultural sectors including fisheries, is a true food Mecca with many farmers concerned about the impact of GMO wheat crops and salmon factories. To read just a few of the endorsements by farmers, businesses and elected officials, go here.
Although states like Maine and Connecticut have recently passed labeling laws, more traction is needed to get other states across the country participating with this effort. Washington state, as a food-churning powerhouse, would be a major win, likely causing other states to examine the labeling initiatives for their own potential use. According to I-522’s main support site, Yeson522.com, a win with I-522 means more information and control for consumers.
An excerpt from the website reads, “A ‘yes’ vote on Initiative 522 (I-522) would give Washington shoppers more information about what’s in the food they eat and feed their families. Under this initiative, genetically engineered foods, including corn or soy, or foods with genetically engineered ingredients like chips, cold cereals, soft drinks and candy would be required to be labeled noting that the food or processed food has been genetically engineered. Labeling genetically engineered foods would give shoppers more control over their shopping decisions.”
Those living in the Washington area may notice a rise in TV ads for and against labeling initiatives. As we saw with Prop 37, funding from companies against such labeling skyrockets around voting time. What’s the final costs spent by anti-Prop 37 firms like Monsanto, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, and Dupont $46 million.
Pro-Prop 37 companies worked with a budget of just $9.2 million. That’s about five times more for the anti-labeling groups to work with, people! The good news about the Prop 37 defeat? Even with that kind of financial spread, the proposition voting results were 51.4 percent for “no” to 48.6 percent for “yes” – meaning that the defeat was, by many accounts, a narrow one.
As of Oct. 4, 2012, the dollars on both sides were piling up, as was seen with Prop 37. Support for I-522 is at about $5.8 million, while opposition to the initiative has raised more than $17.1 million. Monsanto and DuPont, among others, are once again strong contributors to the opposition campaign. According to Ballotpedia.org, this $17.1 million-plus is the new record for the most spent to try to defeat a ballot initiative.
However, the people at Yeson522.com are optimistic: “Let’s not forget that despite large chemical and pesticide companies spending well over $45 million, they barely defeated the measure. Prop 37 heightened awareness of this issue and advanced the national dialogue about food labeling. For example, since the California measure failed in November 2012, Whole Foods announced this spring that they would require all of their products to have GMO labels by 2018 and many grocery stores have come out opposed to genetically engineered fish (GE Fish). Chipotle, the restaurant chain, also recently announced it started labeling its genetically engineered ingredients.”
Thus, with the awareness brought about by Prop 37 and the progress made by companies such as Whole Foods, I-522 is already backed with a surge of enthusiasm and real, measurable backing. Add this to the traction made by Maine and Connecticut this year, and the anti-GMO movement has made measurable gains, if only in terms of awareness. And awareness is power. It can move mountains and make real changes. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, awareness can do even more than big agri-chemical companies’ money can.
So, Washington…The ballot text currently on file reads:
“Initiative Measure No. 522 concerns labeling of genetically-engineered foods.This measure would require most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stocks, if produced using genetic engineering as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale. Should this measure be enacted into law?”
Yes [ ]
No [ ]
Vote yes, my friends. It matters to all of us, in Washington, in the entire U.S., and to the future of the entire globe.
Not a registered Washington voter but want to get involved in spreading the information? Visit Yeson522.com.