GMO labeling proposal headed to ballot in Washington state

Thursday, January 10, 2013 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer
Tags: GMO labeling, Washington state, ballot measure

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(NaturalNews) The fight is not over to get "Frankenfood" labeled, as roughly 350,000 signatures have been successfully delivered to the Secretary of State's office in Washington state petitioning for a ballot measure that would require the labeling of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). According to The Spokesman-Review, the legislature in the Evergreen State will have the first pass at enacting the bill. And if the legislature rejects it, voters will then have the opportunity to pass the bill themselves with majority support, which would make Washington the first state in the union to recognize the divine right of human beings to know what is contained in the foods we eat.

The bill is known as I-522, or "The People's Right To Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," and it very closely resembles Proposition 37 in California, which failed to pass with voter majority by a very slim margin. Like Prop. 37, I-522 is fairly simple and straightforward: if a food product contains ingredients that were derived using genetic modification, or if a food product itself was produced using genetic modification, then it must be clearly labeled at the retail level for the benefit of consumers.

"Beginning July 1, 2015, any food offered for retail sale in Washington is misbranded if it is, or may have been, entirely or partly produced with genetic engineering and that fact is not disclosed," explains I-522. It goes on to explain which food products are included in this requirement -- raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds. You can read the complete text of I-522 for yourself here:

Like in California with Prop. 37, the goal of I-522 in Washington is to increase transparency by requiring that food producers fully disclose the contents of their products to consumers. The bill does not make any declarations one way or the other about the safety of GMOs (though recent studies speak for themselves on this matter), but rather addresses the complete lack of honesty and full disclosure as it concerns hidden GMOs throughout the food supply.

"They're not being warned, they're being informed," explained local resident Chris McManus to The Spokesman-Review about the bill's intent for consumers. "A little bit more information never hurt anybody about the foods they eat."

This is the same sentiment shared by many Washingtonians, hundreds of thousands of whom have been more than eager to support efforts to get I-522 on the ballot in 2013. Though the I-522 campaign only needed 241,153 valid signatures by January 4, 2013, to have the bill considered for passage, the campaign was able to successfully gather more than 100,000 additional signatures beyond this requirement by the January 4 deadline.

I-522 to protect Washington's agricultural economy, export market

As can be expected, the misinformation brigade is already coming out in full force to fight against I-522, claiming many of the same lies responsible for deterring some California voters from supporting Prop. 37. But the I-522 campaign is already actively dispelling these myths, which include claims that GMO labeling will increase grocery costs and hurt the local economy. To the contrary, GMO labeling will help significantly boost Washington's agricultural economy, as well as preserve its valuable export market.

"Numerous foreign markets with restrictions against foods produced through genetic engineering have restricted imports of United States crops due to concerns about genetic engineering," explains Section 1.8 of I-522. "Mandatory identification of foods produced with genetic engineering can be a critical method for preserving the economic value of exports to markets with restrictions and prohibitions against genetic engineering."

This is a particularly important for Washington, as agriculture is its largest industry. Washington state is a huge exporter of wheat and many other agricultural commodities, which means GMO labeling would actually help farmers in the state by satisfying stricter export requirements mandated by countries like Japan, South Korea, China, and most European Union states, all of which currently require some form of GMO labeling.

And contrary to false claims made in California that GMO labeling would "hurt farmers," strong support from farming communities throughout Washington state for I-522's passage show that GMO labeling will actually benefit farmers, otherwise they would not be in support of the bill. Many of these farmers are already wary about losing their export markets due to GMO contamination of their crops, which is why there is strong momentum in many agricultural regions of the state to pass I-522 and make a clear distinction between GMO and non-GMO crops.

"Preserving the identity, quality, and reliability of Washington's agricultural products is of prime importance to our state's fiscal health," adds Section 1.12 of I-522.

Be sure to read the full text of I-522, and encourage your friends and family in Washington state to call their representatives and urge support for truth in food labeling.

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