The Issue: GMO foods are not currently required to be identified on food labels.
The Question: Should Washington residents support Initiative 522?
On January 3, 2013, over 350,000 signatures were submitted to the Secretary of State to get an initiative placed on the ballot that would require the Washington State legislature to establish mandatory labeling of foods produced through genetic engineering, otherwise known as GMO foods. The vast number of signatures submitted – 100,00 more than the legal requirement – is testament to how many people in Washington support this measure, and echoes polls taken on this issue here and elsewhere have earned I- 522 a place on the ballot.
What Are GMO (also known as GE or GM) Foods?
According to the Initiative’s website, www.labelitwa.org, “Genetically engineered foods are created by taking DNA from one species and forcing it into other unrelated species—-mixing plant, animal, bacterial and viral genes in combinations that cannot occur in nature. Foods with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not the same as those created through traditional breeding techniques and are experimental.”
The website also explains that “Forty-nine countries, including Japan, South Korea, China, Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Russia, the European Union member states, and other key United States trading partners, have laws mandating disclosure of genetically engineered foods on food labels. Many countries have restrictions or bans against foods produced with genetic engineering.”
What is the Problem?
The problems caused by GMOs can be many, partly listed on the website www.labelitwa.org/ or elsewhere. They include possible health effects of creating unpredicted alterations, from the process of genetic engineering itself, irrespective of which gene is transferred.
There also exists the possible contamination of GMO crops to other crops, the danger of increased herbicide use on herbicide-resistant GMO crops, and what the Royal Society of Canada says, are “increased levels of known naturally occurring toxins,” and the “appearance of new, not previously identified” toxins. Experiments document that rats fed GMO foods had increased liver damage and cancer. GMO techniques can also produce substances that inhibit the assimilation of nutrients.
The public’s right to know the content of their food is paramount. Processed food has carried mandatory labeling for decades, identifying all ingredients and their quantities, along with any common allergens. We can compare salt content of different brands of soup. We should also be able to compare and choose to either buy, or not buy, GE products. It’s one more line on a label or a simple sign at the produce stand.
A research paper available at www.saynotoGMOs.org discusses the hype associated with GMOs. “The promised traits associated with GMOs have been sky high—vegetables growing in the desert, vitamin fortified grains, and highly productive crops feeding the starving millions. None of these are available. In fact, the only two traits that are found in nearly all commercialized GM plants are herbicide tolerance and/or pesticide production.” What has happened is that pests are adapting to the imbedded pesticide and are becoming resistant.
Support for Democracy
I-522 only requires the labeling of foods, so that consumers themselves can make responsible choices. This is elementary democracy – the people’s right to choose – enshrined in our federal and state constitutions. We hope the state Legislature does the right thing, but if not, the Initiative will pass to a vote by the people.
The Justice Party urges you to support Initiative 522 and to contact your legislators asking them to support this initiative for truth in labeling.
This statement is also available at http://www.justiceparty-wa.org/2013/01/22/statement-on-initiative-522-requiring-labeling-on-genetically-engineered-gmo-food/.