Washington State is fighting its own GMO labeling battle. Washingtonians will soon vote on Initiative 522, a measure that has the power to require GMO labels in Washington by 2015. Inspired by the close vote on California’s Prop 37, supporters of I-522 are doing everything they can to pass the GMO labeling initiative in November.
GMO labeling standards are gaining momentum around the globe. Labeling has faced opposition in the United States due in part to Big Food companies expressing their anti-labeling views. There are more than 60 countries worldwide that require foods produced through genetic engineering to be labeled. Many of those countries also have restrictions on the amount, if any at all, of GMO foods that can be imported. Limits on exports are one of the many reasons supporters feel I-522 is so important.
Agriculture is a major part of the Washington economy; in fact, agricultural products are Washington’s second highest export after products from Boeing and before Microsoft. Farmers are concerned that without GMO labeling, their products will no longer be accepted by countries that legally require GMOs to be labeled.
If I-522 passes, food companies would have until 2015 to make the necessary changes to their labels. Supporters of the measure feel this is ample time to make the changes, and it shouldn’t cause the price of the items with updated labels to rise. According to the Yes on 522 Frequently Asked Questions page, “label updates are a routine part of business for the food industry and should not result in additional costs to shoppers.”
The idea that changing labels would make the cost of food rise is a common argument against GMO labeling, though many feel the argument doesn’t hold up. Changing labels shouldn’t be much of an inconvenience. In fact, Whole Foods, who has come out in their support of I-522, has stated that it will soon require all of its products to be labeled if they contain GMOs.
Supporters of I-522 are also concerned with the impact GMO crops and other products have on the environment. Some evidence supports the idea that GMO crops encourage the evolution of pesticide-resistant pests and that the crops don’t necessarily stay where they are planted, which can put other crops at risk of being overgrown. Other concerns are based simply on consuming food that is not natural, and many worry about the health risks. For more information, or to show support for Yes on I-522, visit the movement’s webpage.