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Battleground I-522: what’s at stake and why now?

English: Digital Elevation map of Washington s...
English: Digital Elevation map of Washington state. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In less than a week the people of Washington State will decide whether most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods and seeds using genetic engineering (GE) will be labeled when offered for retail sale. A “yes” vote on 522 would give Washington shoppers more information about what’s in their food and control over their shopping decisions. Under this initiative, genetically engineered foods to be labeled would include chips, cold cereals, soft drinks, candy, corn and soy.

Our food is already labeled with abundant nutritional information, including sugar, sodium, whether flavors are natural or artificial and if salmon is wild or farm-raised. Food companies are already required to label genetically engineered food in 64 other countries, so why not here?

A recent NY Times poll indicated that over 93% of Americans want mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods right here and right now. This concern is addressed in a Delicious Living article: Why You Should Care about GMOs.   This choice is now before the people of Washington and it will have huge ramifications for future labeling initiatives in the country.  If the measure succeeds, food companies will have no choice but to begin labeling genetically engineered foods. Consumers in that state will steer clear of products bearing these labels. As a result, food companies will be forced to source non- genetically engineered ingredients in order to remove the label and salvage their sales. Their ingredient suppliers will turn to companies like Monsanto to provide seeds that are not genetically engineered.  The GE cycle will begin to unravel as more seeds are commercially available.

If the measure succeeds, other states will be more likely to pass labeling measures. Already almost half the states in the US have introduced bills requiring labeling of GE products. The citizens of these states are looking to Washington as a measure of future success or failure. If Washington State wins, then the corporate dominoes will tumble. Labeling will be much easier to achieve with success in just this one state.

Success would also mean GE salmon and apples, which are slated for GE approval, would be less likely to gain commercial traction. Both are important agricultural commodities for Washington and have enormous national consumer ramifications.

The opponents are vociferous and have deep pockets. Recently the Seattle PI reported that opponents of the initiative have already donated over $17 Million, a staggering war chest aimed at defeating the measure. This money is fueling deceptive ads aimed at emotional scare tactics.

If the measure is defeated, not because of the people’s true sentiment but due to corporate bullying and deception, the path to labeling will suffer a huge blow. It is possible that many states would take this as a sign and not initiate new labeling measures. Those already with initiatives in the works would encounter difficulty raising money to fight the opposition.

The stakes are high in Washington, and the polls show that the majority of consumers support the labeling of GMO foods. With the enormous funds being spent to defeat the “right to know,” it’s important to get involved. We need all hands on deck to help defeat the misinformation campaign and help turn the tide. Everyone reading this post can be part of this historical effort. Here are eight important steps we can all take:

1) Donate to the Yes on I-522 Campaign. Even a small personal donation is important and adds up, if everyone pitches in.

2) Businesses that can be recognized as contributors!  If your company donates send them your logos, they will be sure to get them posted on the www.yeson522.com website under Business Endorsers (http://yeson522.com/endorsements/#businesses) UNFI has.

3) Host a “Kitchen Conversation,” which is an opportunity to get together with friends and family to spread the word without spending millions of dollars. Let’s use people power!

4) Join the “Truth Squad” – This is a very cool way to read up and respond to the No Campaign allegations on social media.

5) If you are affiliated with an organization or businesses, please endorse and send the campaign your name and logo.

6) Like the campaign on Facebook and Tweet their updates.

7) Join the Phone Bank and volunteer to make calls in support of transparent labeling.

8) Stay informed about the initiative and talk to your friends and business associates.

There are many who say Washington I-522 is THE battle and it must be won in November. Let me know what you have done to help.

4 thoughts on “Battleground I-522: what’s at stake and why now?”

  1. Hi Melody,
    Just shared this article on my blog (with full acknowledgement that you wrote it, of course). About 3 weeks ago, I began writing small articles about 522 from a Mother’s perspective, the common sense perspective, a shopper on a budget’s perspective, and delving more deeply into the issue. I’ve followed the GMO issue for about a decade, but I wanted to know more about labeling. Then, I wrote a letter to Jay Inslee to ask that he come out in support of 522 and realized I couldn’t tell him to go look at my facebook posts! So, I created a blog, threw my articles up, and asked him to look at that! Then, this week, I wrote up a flyer and covered the 3 most frequently misunderstood issues (price change, new layer of government?, and will gmo’s save us all from starving)…and I went around and gave them to my fellow islanders. I live on Vashon Island. Fingers crossed we’ll pass this initiative…and thanks for all you’re doing!

    1. Thank you for re-posting. We have got to have all hands on deck. This is about more than Washington State. It could tell us about the future of labeling.

      Melody L Meyer
      VP Policy and Industry Relations UNFI
      phone 401.528.8634 ext 62225
      Fax 831/462-5718
      SKYPE melody.meyer
      Visit my Blog at http://www.organicmattersblog.com

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