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Confused Consumers are a Desirable Bonus of I-522

October 10, 2013
With less than a month out, Washington State Initiative 522 continues to garner more and more attention of state voters.

If enacted, the law would require labeling of genetically engineered foods on the packaging of raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seed and seed stock, or on retail shelf signage for unpackaged products. Exemptions to these regulations would be provided under the measure.  If found in violation of not meeting the labeling requirements, offenders could face “misbranding” penalties of up to $1,000 per day.  Lastly, the Washington State Department of Health would implement the measure’s regulations, which may be enforced by the Attorney General or through a private right of action by citizens.

The editorial board of the Seattle Times wrote an outstanding piece, titled, Vote No on Initiative 522, the GMO labeling initiative, which argues why consumers deserve useful information and not scare tactics:
 “INITIATIVE 522 is a clumsy, emotion-based campaign to require labeling of selective food products containing genetically modified organisms.

“The issue for proponents of I-522 seems to be less about outcomes — the products themselves — but rather finding the modern processes offensive.

“Farmers and science have nurtured and bred hybrid versions of plants and animals for selective characteristics for centuries. But the efforts of the last few decades have stirred critics whose alarmist concerns are not supported by the mainstream scientific community.

“Labeling is one part of an effort to make the use of GMOs more expensive, arduous and complicated for farmers, processors, shippers, inspectors and regulators.

“Confused consumers are a desirable bonus. Ominous labels must mean something is dicey, right? The reality is we have all been eating genetically altered agricultural products for a long time without demonstrable problems.

“Proponents of I-522 do not make their case by taking on the science. Liberal spending by Monsanto to protect its business niche is not a compelling rationale to back labeling.

“Consumers have the option to go organic. The products exist, though shoppers pay more for them. That is labeling that makes a point. At the same time, GMO labeling protocols provide for a multitude of exemptions that do not serve consumers.”

“An initiative that touts itself as protecting the public’s ‘right to know’ ought to guarantee accurate and complete information,” wrote the Tacoma News Tribune.

“Initiative 522 does the opposite – one of multiple reasons voters should reject it in November.”  In its editorial, I-522 Deceptive ‘truth’ about food and science,’ the Tribune does a noteworthy job of arguing the inconsistency within the law.
“Lumping together major GE ingredients and nutritionally insignificant residues is one way I-522 misleads. Another is the fact that I-522 stigmatizes some foods that have no genetically modified ingredients.”  For example, “The sucrose from genetically modified sugar beets is chemically and nutritionally identical to the sucrose from ‘natural’ sugarcane. Yet the beet sugar would have to carry the fright headline while the cane sugar wouldn’t. I-522 is targeting the politically incorrect plant – and its farmers – not the nutrient itself.  There’s no consistency.”

Elizabeth Hovde for The Oregonian, wrote a wonderful piece, titled GMO labels and Initiative 522 lose appeal after close look, which details her experience as an Oregonian when the state proposed a law requiring mandatory labeling of GM foods:
“Oregon was the first state to attempt GE food labeling in 2002 with Measure 27. It failed big.

“When consumers are asked if they want more information on food labels, ‘Of course,’ is the expected answer. It’s my answer. Knowledge is power. And if knowledge comes easy, all the better. But if asked if we want enhanced food labels exposing which foods undergo a process that isn’t largely opposed and that brings food suppliers costs that will likely be passed onto consumers, ‘Of course,’ doesn’t look so smart.

(GE foods are unopposed by the American Medical Association and the Food and Drug Association, and labeling efforts have been called an “attack on modern science and agriculture” by a cadre of scientists.)

“Voluntary labeling is something consumers should make known they want and expect the food industry to supply when possible. And people who are adamantly opposed to eating modified foods already have tools: Selecting foods labeled ‘organic’ or ‘non-GMO’ is one of them.

“Initiative 522 would bring folks incomplete food information and unnecessary costs to Washington farmers, consumers and taxpayers. Washingtonians should get to know the genetically engineered food issue before labeling the foods bad or voting for an initiative that will cost families money.”

To read more facts about Washington State Initiative 522 visit the No 522 site.