From the WA consumer perspective.
This fall Washington residents will decide on ballot initiative 522, which requires labeling of genetically engineered foods.
Genetically Engineered (GE) or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) are plants or animals that have been genetically manipulated with DNA from bacteria, viruses or other plants and animals that would not happen through natural breeding methods.
In 2012, volunteers collected 353,331 signatures so that Washington registered voters could vote on whether or not to label GE/GMO foods in Washington state. It will be on the ballot this November as Initiative 522.
Voting Yes on 522 is a vote for GMO/GE labels on food. It's not a ban. It's not anti-GMO, it's pro-consumer rights.
Many countries already have a GMO/GE food labeling policy similar to I-522. Here are just a few: Great Britain, Australia, Japan, India, Russia, China, Brazil, Germany and France.
The FDA has approved GE/GMO foods for human consumption based only on short-term, animal studies conducted and paid for by the bio-tech chemical companies that are selling the seeds.
As of October 30th, 2013 the Grocery Manufacturers Association has donated 11 million (on behalf of Pepsi, Coke, Nestle, General Mills, Kellogg, etc...) to the No on 522 campaign. Monsanto & Dupont follow with 5.3 million and 3.9 million respectively. On the Yes side, the biggest corporate donation has been by Dr. Bronner's at 1.7 million. Learn more
It would be easier to have a labeling law at a federal level. Unfortunately, Congress has stalled, voted down or dismissed this issue. So, 20 states are trying to take a bottom-up approach. Connecticut and Maine have recently passed legislation requiring labeling of GE/GMO foods, but they won't take effect until other states pass similar laws.
The bio-tech companies' user agreements explicitly forbid the use of their GE/GMO seeds for any independent research. Therefore, scientists have a difficult time examining whether or not GE/GMO crops lead to unintended side effects and health risks.
Many Washington residents who support ballot initiative I-522 are pro-scientific inquiry, research and progress. They're also pro-business and capitalism. They simply believe that a free market requires product transparency for competition.
An independent study, conducted by Kai Robertson, found that there is no evidence to sugggest that food prices will increase due to labeling. Since packaging changes, which happen frequently due to marketing and consumer demand, are built into the cost of doing business.
It seems as if there's a general consensus that labels will not increase costs. What's up for debate however, is the cost that food manufacturers will incur due seperating their GMO/GE and non-GMO/GE ingredients. Note: This is already being done for most of our trade partners who require labeling.
I-522 was written so that it does not allow for damages, thereby discouraging lawsuits. For compliance, there's an 18-month grace period and small businesses (farmers for instance) are exempt from paying a fine for first-time violations.
Iniative 522's exemptions are actually straightforward. Products that are currently required to have nutritional labels will be required to have GMO/GE labeling. Meat, cheese, dairy or eggs are labled GMO/GE if they come from GMO/GE animals, which follows international standards. Alcohol will not be labeled because it falls under different laws.
According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an alliance of more than 400,000 citizens and scientists, "overuse of herbicide-tolerant GE crops has spurred an increase in herbicide use and an epidemic of herbicide-resistant 'superweeds,' which will lead to even more herbicide use."
It is true that USDA labeled Organic products do not contain GE/GMO foods. But who can afford to only buy Organic? GE/GMO ingredients are now in approximately 80% of conventional, processsed food. Also, fish cannot be certified organic and GE salmon may be on the market soon in WA.
Many of the Washington residents who've donated their time in support of ballot initiative 522 are parents, businesspeople, health care professionals, teachers and students who believe we should know what's in our food.
I-522 was written to cover food for human consumption, it doesn't actually include pet food. It seems that the No on 522 Campaign is confusing WA for CA, where pet food was part of Proposition 37.
For more information, check out these links:
This site was funded and designed by two sisters who are Washington residents. Our only objective is to help you make the most informed decision possible. We will not profit if WA I-522 passes or is voted down. We can be reached via email: info at 522facts.com