5 things to know about Washington’s GMO foods labeling initiative

By   /   October 16, 2013  /   10 Comments

Part 1 of 4 in the series Ballot measures 2013
EAT IT: Washington voters will decide in November if they want GMO foods to be labeled.

EAT IT: Washington voters will decide in November if they want GMO foods to be labeled.

By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog

You are what you eat.

And proponents of labeling genetically modified foods say you should know what’s in that food. So they’ve put up a ballot measure in Washington state that would require food with genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled. Voters will decide on the labeling requirement Nov. 5.

Food industry representatives who oppose the labeling say it stigmatizes GMO foods, misleading people into believing they are unhealthy or unsafe. Genetically modified crops are basically foods that have been engineered to resist herbicides and fight off insects. The jury is still out on GMOs in the public realm, but they’re legal and several scientific and health organizations across the globe have deemed them safe to consume.

Here’s what you need to know going into the election:

National food fight: This fight is being played out in Washington state, but it’s a national one. The Yes on I-522 campaign (pro-GMO labeling) has raised more than $4.6 million while the No on I-522 has raised $17.1 million. Most of the money for both groups is coming from outside of Washington, according to Spokesman Review. Even more so on the part of the no campaign, which has raised a mere $350 in Washington.

A lot of the opposition comes from food giants like Monsanto and other agribusinesses while the pro-labeling push has received a large contribution and push from Dr. Bronner’s Magic All-One, a California soap company.

Same fight, different state: These same groups tossing tomatoes at each other have carried their fight over from California, where voters rejected a GMO labeling initiative last year by a vote of 51 percent to 49 percent.

GMOs abound: A lot of commodity crops in the United States are genetically modified. Most feed corn, sugar beets, cotton and soybeans are genetically modified, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Costs to rise: Scientists reported last week the initiative could drive up the cost of food in Washington. The Washington State Academy of Sciences said there could be consumer costs that go hand in hand with the GMO labeling initiative if it passes. The study doesn’t say exactly how much the food costs would go up, according to The Olympian.

Pro-labeling in the lead: An Elway poll conducted in September showed the pro- labeling of GMO foods group in the lead, with 66 percent of voters saying they supported I-522. But Stuart Elway, who owns the firm that conducted the independent poll, told USA Today those numbers could change closer to voting time as the ad campaigns on both sides heat up.

Contact Shelby Sebens at [email protected]

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Part of 4 in the series Ballot measures 2013


Shelby formerly served as staff reporter for Watchdog.org.

  • At the end of the day, GMO foods contain harmful ingredients that can destroy human’s immune system. And that is a fact!

  • John

    No it’s not a fact. Organic is more dangerous. FACT.

  • karend

    Please share data to back up your statement that organic has been proven to be more dangerous than GMO.
    Up until the last hundred or so years, organic was the only way food was produced. I often wonder how the human race ballooned to 7 billion people with all of the organic food, raw milk, lack of safety harnesses and govt oversight meant to keep us safe.
    Personally, I believe the jury is still out and I’ll choose what others have had for the last 10,000 years because there is no doubt that it works.

  • RobertWager

    18 recalls for pathogenic microorganism contamination of organic food since 2011. In one of the recalls 50+ people died and thousands were infected and have permanent kidney damage.

    After 17 years and 3 trillion meals containing GE ingredients there is not a single case of harm documented

  • Marc Bohne

    The only facts we need to know:

    Fact: Citizens have the right to know what they are consuming. They have the RIGHT to decide for themselves if it is ok or not. Ingredients, and the PROCESS that produces those ingredients, is information that we have the right to know. If one process to wash rice includes arsenic, or is harvested by enslaved children, I would want to know which rice product on the shelf uses either process. Genetic modification is a process with potential for unseen consequences that may manifest themselves later.

    Fact: No one can decide for us whether or not GMO’s are safe for us. Time alone will tell that. So, until that time, we get to decide for ourselves.

    Fact: If GMO’s are safe, then labeling things that contain them should not matter. Labels currently list many things that are perfectly safe. We can use that information any way we wish. The REAL backers behind the ‘no’ campaign KNOW that some people will decide NOT to purchase those products, which is the consumer’s right to choose no matter what the ingredient listed is. Sugar is an example of this as well.

    Fact: Opponents of 522 are not disagreeing with the above facts! They are arguing that this law should not stand because of it’s “imperfections”. They are arguing that they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars nationally to stop us from adopting a law that needs more editing! They are arguing that the law should not be implemented because they have determined that there are typos, and that these will hurt farmers, parents, schools, and communities and cost everyone at the store. HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS!

    Fact: The financial backers of the ‘no’ campaign are HIDING their identities from the public. Deception in one aspect of a campaign is a good indicator of deception in other places. GMO producers have admitted that they do not want people to know that they are producing processed food with GMO’s, because they know that many people will simply choose not to buy them. That is the long and short of it. They do not want choice to be a part of this. Monsanto and it’s confederates have spent billions of dollars constructing the GMO empire, and this is the point at which that effort gets funded, at the cash register. They are desperate to keep citizens from knowing the content of their purchases.

  • Sue Copeland

    ABSOLUTELY. We deserve to know what we are eating and feeding our families.

  • Fred Chittenden

    Fine, go buy organic at higher prices and let the rest of us buy foods that we feel are just as good or better at less cost. This dumbass bill will just increase the cost of both, without providing any real benefits.

    As far as GMO crops go, they frequently require less chemistry to grow more abundant crops. If you find that a problem, then feel free to stick with organic, LIKE YOU PROBABLY ALREADY DO!

  • Monique

    Could you cite your sources? Thanks.

  • Jack G.

    First of all. I think GMO’s are most likely killing off the bees. They’re saying that the yearly 1/3 of the bees dieing off, is a total mystery, yet the proliferation of ‘unregulated’ GMO production, happened ABOUT the same time that the 1/3 bees being killed off yearly began, so ALL GMO production should stop immediately. at least until, it is determined to be safe and not the cause. And to clarify, I’m totally against ANY GMO in me or my family’s system (or anyone’s system).

    As for the I-522 bill, it is so sloppily authored, that it should be sent back and edited and amended further to include ALL foods be covered in it. If it passes, as is, and something goes wrong in that arena, well, it will be years, before any ruling will be acted upon, and by that time, any and all guilty parties will have buried it, making any efforts on finding a smoking gun, and holding them responsible, in a timely manner, totally futile and a complete waste of time and money. Also, by that time, people will be tired of hearing about it, and just tune it out. I do acknowledge, that it’s approval would be a start, yes, but in it’s present form, it would do more harm than good, in the long run.

  • News Reader

    GMO’s are very controversial. The first reason is that genetic engineering disrupts the precise sequence of genetic codes and disturbs the functions of neighboring genes, which for food, may give rise to potentially toxic or allergenic molecules or even alter the nutritional value of food produced. An example of this is that the Bt toxin being used in GMO corn, for example, was recently detected in the blood of pregnant women and their babies, with possibly harmful consequences.
    A second reason has to do with genetic contamination. A GMO crop, once released in the open, reproduces via pollination and interacts genetically with natural varieties of the same crop, producing what is called genetic contamination. An example of this is Bt corn, which was reported in a study published in Nature, one of the world’s leading scientific journals, to have contaminated indigenous varieties of corn in Oaxaca, Mexico.
    A third reason is that a GMO, brought into natural surroundings, may have a toxic or lethal impact on other living things. Thus, it was found that Bt corn destroyed the larvae of the monarch butterfly, raising well grounded fears that many other natural plant and animal life may be impacted in the same way.
    A fourth reason is that the benefits of GMOs have been oversold by the people or companies that benefit economically from it, like Monsanto or Syngenta. Most genetically engineered (GE) crops are either engineered to produce their own pesticide in the form of Bacillus thurengiensis (Bt) or are designed to be resistant to herbicides, so that herbicides can be sprayed in massive quantities to kill pests. It has been shown, however, that insects are fast developing resistance to Bt as well as to herbicides, resulting in even more massive infestation by the new superbugs. There is also no substantial evidence that GM crops yield more than conventional crops; in fact several scientific studies have proven that the opposite is true. What GM crops definitely do lead to is higher pesticide use, which is harmful both to humans and the planet.