Labeling GE Foods and the i-522 Washington Initiative

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by Elizabeth Larter

This November, Washington State voters will decide whether to label genetically engineered foods. The past couple of months have shown a ramp-up of support for labeling, with labeling bills passing legislatures in Connecticut, and Maine. Washington, however, is the only state where voters will decide the fate of labeling genetically engineered foods.

Support for I-522 is diverse and spread across Washington.  More than 353,000 signatures were collected by volunteers to place Initiative 522 on the ballot—the second highest number of signatures gathered for an Initiative to the Legislature in Washington State history.

Yes on 522, the campaign to label genetically engineered food, believes that WA shoppers have the right to know what is in the food they and their families are eating. As Delana Jones, the campaign manager for Yes on 522, has said, “This initiative is about giving grocery shoppers more information so they can control the food decisions that affect their family’s health.”

Food manufacturers already label ingredients, nutrition facts, the country of origin, whether fish is farm-raised or wild-caught, whether vanilla extract is natural or artificial, and now even whether meat was tenderized mechanically. Initiative 522 will give shoppers the information they need to make informed choices about the foods they eat.

Many of the campaign’s partners are also advocating for full label transparency here in the state and across the nation. Walter Robb, co-CEO of Whole Foods Market, has said, “The prevalence of GMOs paired with nonexistent mandatory labeling makes it very difficult for retailers to source non-GMO options and for consumers to choose non-GMO products.” Whole Foods Market made history this year when they announced that they would be the first national grocery chain to label genetically engineered foods.

Washington has a strong history of leading on progressive issues, including being the first state to unanimously pass the nation’s first law requiring labels on salmon to tell shoppers whether it was farm-raised or caught in the wild. The state of Alaska already labels genetically engineered salmon and Washington should do the same. In recent years, Washington State has used ballot measures as a force for good public policy—from Death With Dignity, to Marijuana Decriminalization, to Marriage Equality. And now we seek to do the same with Yes on 522!

Last year, California’s Proposition 37 was defeated at the polls after the opposition outspent the “Yes” campaign six-to-one. In the wake of California’s Proposition 37 defeat, people in Washington came together early, to get organized, train volunteers, and to make sure we raise the funds necessary to compete with the opposition and to further promote why labeling of genetically engineered foods is important.

As part of Yes on 522’s early outreach efforts and organization, we have garnered the support of several high-profile organizations, such as Attune Foods (thank you!), Ben & Jerry’s, the Washington State Nurses Association, Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians, PCC Natural Markets, Washington Conservation Voters, Whole Foods Markets, and Washington Toxics Coalition. We’ve also been endorsed by numerous farmers and fishers.

These organizations and companies understand the importance of transparency and support Yes on 522 because it will provide shoppers with the information they need to make informed decisions when buying food to eat.

Come November, the voters of Washington State will have the ability to give Washington shoppers more control over their shopping decisions and the ability to make their own decisions. If Initiative 522 passes, Washingtonians will be the first state in the nation to enact and implement labeling of genetically engineered food. Success in Washington will not only help build national momentum for more transparency and engage more Americans in the labeling effort, but also will help lay the groundwork for future campaigns across the nation. 

For more information about Yes on 522, Washington’s initiative to label genetically engineered foods, visit us at www.yeson522.com, www.facebook.com/yeson522 or @yeson522 on Twitter.

Yes on 522  


About Elizabeth Larter
Elizabeth Larter works as the communications director for the Yes on 522 campaign in Washington State, which Attune Foods is proud to support.

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