Washington to decide on bioengineered labels Tuesday

by Jeff Gelski
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Voters in the state of Washington have until Tuesday to send in their ballots on measure I-522 that, if passed, would require labeling for food and beverage products that use bioengineered ingredients.

According to a Politico article appearing on-line Nov. 4, a “No on 522 campaign” raised a state-record $22 million, nearly tripling the amount of money that a campaign in favor of the initiative raised. The top five contributors to the “No. on 522” campaign are the Grocery Manufacturers Association against I-522, Monsanto Co., DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences, L.L.C. and Bayer CropScience.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, based in Washington, D.C., has said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the American Medical Association, the World Health Organization, Health Canada, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Academy of Sciences have found that bioengineered food ingredients are safe and that no negative health effects are associated with their use.

According to the G.M.A., 70% to 80% of the foods eaten in the United States contain bioengineered ingredients. The trade association added that the ingredients require fewer pesticides and less water and keep production costs down.

The G.M.A. on Oct.16 was hit with a lawsuit from Washington state Attorney General Bob Ferguson. The suit alleged the G.M.A. violated the state’s campaign disclosure laws when it collected and contributed more than $7 million to the “No on 522” campaign while shielding the identities of the companies that donated. In response to the lawsuit, the G.M.A. registered its political committee Grocery Manufacturers Association against I-522 and released reports related to member contributions, according to the attorney general’s office.

While the “No on 522” campaign says passing the initiative will lead to rising food prices, the “Yes on 522” campaign disputes the statement.

“Labeling genetically engineered foods would give shoppers more control over their shopping decisions,” the “Yes on 522” campaign said. “Contrary to the opposition’s claims, label updates are a routine part of the business for the food industry and should not result in additional costs to shoppers. For example, food companies re-label soda cans and cereal boxes all the time, and it doesn’t affect cost.”

The top five contributors to the “Yes on 522” campaign are Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Organic Consumer Fund Committee to Label GMOs in WA State, Mercola.com Health Resources, L.L.C., Presence Marketing Inc.; and Nature’s Path Foods USA Inc. According to the Politico article, the “Yes on 522” campaign raised $7.8 million.
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