Why You Should Support Labeling Our Food for GMOs

Elizabeth Larter, Anita Yandle

OP-ED: Elizabeth Larter is Communications Director and Anita Yandle is Social Media Coordinator for Yes on 522.

This November, Washingtonians will vote on whether to label genetically engineered foods. Voting yes on I-522, the initiative to label GMOs, will ensure transparency for shoppers by providing them with more information about the foods they buy and eat. We already label our foods with many different pieces of information that shoppers want to know. Food manufacturers label whether vanilla is natural or artificial, whether our fish is farm-raised or wild, sodium and sugar content, and even the country of origin. These pieces of information allow all shoppers to make the best grocery shopping decisions for themselves.  I-522 would give Washingtonians more options so that they can make informed decisions about the foods they feed their families. Labeling genetically engineered foods would simply add a few words to the front of the package so that shoppers know what’s in their food.  It’s that simple. But the Yes on 522 campaign is facing a heavily funded negative campaign.

Yes on 522’s biggest opponents are out-of-state big pesticide and junk food companies that want to keep you in the dark about what’s in your food. Just like they fought against nutritional panels being added in the early 1990s, they are now fighting against our right to know if our foods have been genetically engineered or not.  Just recently, the big pesticide companies alone dumped in over 9 million.  The big junk food companies are, so far, hiding behind the Grocery Manufacturers Association. They have put in $2,222,500 against labeling. Opponents of labeling are spreading lies about I-522—trying to confuse and scare voters into voting no. Don’t be fooled by their claims.

On TV, opponents of your right to know are running false and misleading ads.  The opposition says that farmers oppose 522, when reality is that hundreds of farmers support I-522 and even helped write it. Opponents of our right to know say that it will cost shoppers more at the grocery store, when there have been no independent studies showing that it does increase costs. In fact, after Europe started labeling GMOs, European Commissioner for Health & Consumer Protection David Byrne said that labeling “did not result in increased costs, despite the horrifying (double-digit) prediction of some interests.“ Additionally, many food manufacturers have stated that changing labels is a regular part of business and would not lead to an increase in food prices. Finally, opponents try to mislead voters by saying that the initiative has confusing exemptions, when the truth is that the exemptions are written to be in line with our current labeling standards. For example, food bought in the grocery store comes with nutrition facts, while foods at restaurants do not. Initiative 522 won’t change this. They are just trying to distract and confuse voters from the truth, when they wouldn't support transparency either way.

Another claim by these companies is that people who want to avoid genetically engineered foods can simply buy organic. While that may be an option for our opponents, it is not for many Washingtonians. Many Washingtonians don’t live near grocery stores that have a wide variety of organic options. Many more Washingtonians cannot afford to spend more on their groceries. Yes on 522 would help ensure that all Washington shoppers no matter how much they make or where they live, would have the ability to know what’s in their food.

A yes vote on 522 would ensure transparency and give shoppers the right to choose. Big out-of-state corporations cannot buy this election or our right to know what’s in our food. Vote Yes on 522 this November.  You can learn more about the truth about I-522 here.

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