Posted: Thursday, February 14, 2013 12:00 PM
Farmer supports biotech labels
I am a conventional wheat farmer from Douglas County, Wash., and I am responding to the editorial "Farmers feel label fatigue" of Jan. 18. The editorial was about Washington's Initiative 522 to label genetically modified organism, or GMO, foods.
It is not label fatigue that I am feeling as a farmer. Instead, I am feeling GMO fatigue. I am tired of GMO crops threatening my foreign markets. Eighty-five percent to 90 percent of Washington state wheat is exported to foreign countries. And 51 percent of that wheat goes to countries that require GMO food labeling, as reported by E. Neal Blue in his study, "A Review of the Potential Market Impacts of Commercializing GM Wheat in the U.S."
When Blue wrote that report in January 2010 there were 48 countries that required GMO food labeling. Today in 2013 there are 62 countries that require GMO food labeling, with India coming online this year. See www.centerforfoodsafety.org/gemap . The GMO food labeling movement is growing around the world.
It is true that Washington state today has a vigorous agricultural export market. But that is largely because the vast majority of our export crops are conventional and not GMOs. The day that a commercialized GMO wheat variety is planted in Washington state is the day that the troubles will begin. I-522 is a visionary initiative that looks ahead of the curve by establishing labeling, identity protection, and segregation of the GMO crops away from the conventional crops. This will avoid the disaster of having a GMO crop mixed in with a conventional crop bound for countries that require labeling or that do not want GMOs.
I am 58 years old and I have farmed just fine all these years without any GMOs. But I cannot farm without my markets. I am going to vote for I-522 this November and I urge every farmer who cares about his markets and cares about staying in business to do the same.