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Initiative 522: Big money spent to sway you; what’s it all about?

SEATTLE — The most expensive and most contentious item on the ballot year is Initiative 522, the measure to require labels on genetically engineered foods.  Nearly $25 million has been spent for and against the effort, making it one of the most costly campaigns in state history.

If I-522 is approved, Washington would be the first state to implement a genetically engineered labeling program.

“It’s about having a label, so you have more information, so you can make the best choice for you when you buy your groceries,” said Elizabeth Larter, spokeswoman for the Yes on I-522 campaign.

i-522The required label would actually be a sentence that would read:  “Partially produced with genetic engineering.”  And that would have to be on the front of the package — not on the side, not on the top, but on the front.

“Information is only useful if it’s accurate, and that’s where Initiative 522 fails consumers,” said Dana Bieber of the No on I-522 campaign.  “It is incomplete, inconsistent and inaccurate.  It provides misleading information to consumers.”

Health Effects

I-522 proponents say they don’t want this to be a debate about the safety of genetically engineered or modified foods, but clearly that’s a big undercurrent of this campaign.

“If GMOs are so great and are helping the world and helping farmers, then why aren’t they proud to have that on their label?” asked Larter.  “Why is the grocery manufacturers association, based in Washington D.C., trying to keep us in the dark about our food?”

Bieber cites hundreds of studies she argues prove that GE foods are healthy and safe.  “These are the foods that we have been eating for over 20 years,” she said.  “Literally millions of people have eaten trillions of meals with GE ingredients and there’s not been one single health consequence to that.”

Label Exemptions

The main argument against I-522 is that it doesn’t apply to everything.  Indeed, opponents say that 70 percent of food would be exempt.  For example, labels wouldn’t be required on beer or wine.  Here’s another:  I-522 wouldn’t apply to a soda you buy at a fountain, but it would for a soda you buy in a can.  How about a delivered pizza? No label on that.  But a frozen pizza from a store, yes.

“We can’t confuse the right to know, with knowing the wrong information,” said Bieber.

But supporters argue that they are just following the U.S. government`s existing food laws, which typically require nutrition labels only on packaged items in a grocery store.

Food Costs

So what about costs?  The sides are very far apart on that.  Opponents argue I-522 will raise food prices for the average family of four by more than $400 a year; opponents say, no way, the costs will only be negligible.

“In the 64 other countries that already label, there’s been no evidence of price increases,” said Larter.  “Why would adding just a couple of words to the front of the package cost consumers hundreds of dollars?”

Bieber argues that ignores a big reality of the business.

“It’s not really about relabeling, it’s about having to remake the products,” she said.  “What our food producers here in the state of Washington would have to do, just for Washington, they would have to remake their foods with higher priced, non-ingredients in order to avoid placing a warning label on them,” she said.

7 comments

  • Brice

    The thing I want to know is…
    Since when has Dupont and Monsanto (the two biggest funders of No on I-522 campaigns) cared about saving me money?

    • Jackie

      I agree! These biotech and food conglomerates are making billions in revenue. What's a few pennies to change labels. It was done in 64 countries. I hope people are smart enough to figure out that Monsanto are only interested in the greed of power and money, rather than our health, environment and agriculture. Don't fall for their lies and deception. It is your right to know what's in your food.

  • Pedro

    I-522 makes total sense. In France, GMO's are labelled on grocery products for years (as well as in 60+ other countries) and honestly most people just ignore those labels because they just don't care. But those who do care can make the choice of not buying the product. I'd like to be able to choose too here in WA. Really, it's not that big of a deal… except for Monsanto maybe? :)

  • Nick

    I laughed out loud at a few of the comments Bieber had. “Literally millions of people have eaten trillions of meals with GE ingredients and there’s not been one single health consequence to that”: someone should show Bieber statistics over the last 20 years of obesity, diabetes, cancer, and other food related diseases and note the gigantic spikes. And the last comment about food producers having to remake foods to avoid placing warning labels on their boxes: isn't this the point of the initiative? We want to know what is going into our food, and if there are ingredients you are trying to hide, those foods SHOULD be remade. It is time Americans took a stand on what goes into their bodies and commit to healthy lifestyles.

  • iLoveMyGoats

    What?? They'd have to 'remake' the product instead of simply relabeling it?????? Wouldn't it cost FAR less for the manufacturer to just change the label then 'remake' the product???? Common sense tells me the manufacturers would go the LeASTt costly route. I guess the opposition thinks we're all morons to fall for that statement. (unfortunately there are some idiots out there who believe the biotech spin.) Manufacturers change their labels all the time with NO COST to the consumer….why would it be any different now???

  • Jackie

    More lies and deception from Monsanto and big food conglomerates who only want the American Consumers to remain in the dark. They resort to dirty tricks by hiding behind the GMA and then countersue WA moms for wanting to know the truth!!!!!
    It's our right to know what's in our food. Changing labels cost PEANUTS to these corporations who make billions of $$$$ in revenue.

  • sears1234

    Everyone knows GMO food is not as good as naturally grown one, and I thought everyone should vote "yes" to I-522. But looking at the whole statewide, it is clearly not that case,

    why?

    Big $$$ is one factor, another bigger reason is most of farmers in our state are building or creating GMO foods and products, their lifes are relied on these GMO food, sigh :(

    If I-522 is passed, most of them will temporarily lose job.

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