Washington voters last week rejected I-522, a ballot initiative that would have required the labeling of some food containing genetically modified organisms, by some 60,000 votes.
The initiative would have required special labeling on some, but not all, food items that contain genetically engineered ingredients.
The rules were arbitrary. Certain foods containing GMOs sold in supermarkets would have to be labeled, while the same food sold in restaurants would not. Grain, fruits and vegetables and processed foods containing GMOs would have to be labeled, while milk and meat produced by animals fed GMO feedstuffs would not.
It exempted alcoholic beverages, though beer and spirits are commonly made from genetically modified grain.
The initiative would have set up separate packaging requirements for products sold in Washington state. That would have made food more expensive for consumers, and would have left Washington producers and processors less competitive.
There is no reliable scientific basis to assert that genetically engineered crops and products made from them are in any way harmful. The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization and even the European Union agree that genetically engineered food is as safe and nutritionally no different than food produced by traditional methods.
Washington voters didn’t buy the hype.
“When Washington voters had the facts about it, they rejected it,” Dana Bieber, coalition spokeswoman for the No on 522 campaign, said. “California voters did the same last year and Oregon before that.”
But the issue is far from dead.
Proponents of the failed measure say they’ll now take their case to the Washington Legislature, where they hope they can drum up enough support to override the will of the voters.
And GMO Free Oregon hopes to soon begin collecting the 87,000 signatures it needs to get a similar initiative on the ballot next November in that state.
So the fight continues.
Leaders of the GMO labeling campaigns say they want consumers to have a choice. But for those who care, the government-certified organic label and private verification services offer food guaranteed to be free from GMOs.
The real goal of these campaigns has nothing to do with consumer choice. Quite the opposite. The continued vilification of GMOs and the products produced with them is designed to perpetuate myths and create fear.
Opponents really want to deprive consumers here and abroad of high-yielding crops produced with a minimum amount of natural resources and artificial inputs, with the greatest possible tolerance to drought, pests and disease.