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Campaign for GM Food Labeling Gets New State Battleground

Sunday’s end to the Washington State Legislature’s 105-day regular session means Evergreen State voters are going to decide whether genetically modified food should be labeled.  That’s because lawmakers in Olympia took no action on Initiative 522, Washington State’s version of  the “Right to Know” law California voters narrowly rejected last November.

I-522 is an “Initiative to the Legislature” under the Washington State Constitution. State lawmakers could have adopted it or even proposed their own version of I-522, but because they took no action, the measure goes on the November ballot with the language written by its sponsors.

The People’s Right to know Genetically Engineered Food Act” will be voted up or down by Washington State voters who are as much experienced in deciding ballot measures as are Californians.  Some language from California’s Proposition 37, however, did not make it up north. I-522 overall is similar to Prop 37, but it is missing language included in the California campaign to prohibit words like “Natural” or “All Natural” from being used on food labels.

As I-522 moves to the ballot, state Public Disclosure Commission records shows at least five separate committees registered to raise money in the support of the measure. Together they spent close to $1 million so far, most probably on petition signature gathering. Total cash on hand reported by the committees is more than $400,000.

Mark Funk, a well-known Evergreen State political operative, leads I-522’s opposition. His “No on 522” committee has opened a bank account with $1,144 deposited so far. Opponents in California outspent Prop 37 supporters, $45 million to about $10 million.

A tax initiative could end up sharing the ballot with I-522. Petitions are being circulated for a November ballot initiative that would require voter approvals of new taxes. It’s not known how that measure might impact turnout if it does reach the ballot with I-522.

© Food Safety News
  • Strong GM labelling laws should pass everywhere. Withholding key information from shoppers by refusing to label foods and food ingredients made using genetic manipulation (GM) techniques distorts markets. It is also against the stated goals of free marketeers – to optimise public and private benefit by enabling everyone to make fully informed and rational decisions on spending their dollars wisely.

    The systematic denial of information is against the public interest and also trashes shoppers’ personal right to know and make optimum choices in their own and society’s best interests. Openness and candour on labels is necessary to empower everyone, so food processors and marketers must disclose new means of food production on all processed food labels. Europe does it and so should we.