Early Editorials Against GMO Labeling Initiative in Washington State

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Source – Food Safety News

By Dan Flynn

Date – 6 Sept 2013

Website – www.foodsafetynews.com

An early indication last year that California’s Proposition 37 might be in trouble was its unpopularity with the state’s newspaper editorial writers. The same phenomenon may be playing out in the Evergreen State, where scribes with opinions aren’t showing much support for Washington’s Initiative 522.

The Seattle Times, Washington state’s largest newspaper, warned voters as early as Feb. 17 to be skeptical about I-522. “Consumers absolutely have a right to know what they are eating is safe, but Initiative 522’s purpose of singling out genetically engineered foods for labeling isn’t the answer to our health questions,” said the Seattle Times editorial board. “The dialogue should center on science. And so far — there is no reliable evidence crops containing genetically modified organisms, commonly referred to as ‘GMO’ foods, pose any risks.”

Like Prop. 37, I-522 requires that food with genetically-modified organisms be labeled at the retail level. It reached the ballot as a “Initiative to the Legislature,” meaning it went first to the last session of the Washington Legislature before being placed on the ballot without any changes.

As the election has moved closer, the Wenatchee World, Tri-City Herald and Spokesman-Review, probably the three most influential newspapers in eastern Washington, have also come out against I-522. Also like California, it’s likely there will be a large rural/urban split over the measure by Evergreen State voters.

Newspaper editorials in Washington State are following along the same lines of debate that were expressed last year in California, with some attention going to the specific language of the measure.

Some say the labeling system that will follow if voters approve I-522 will be vague with little useful information. For example, it does not require any specific GMOs to be listed, just that they might be present.

And, exceptions in the initiative for restaurants and bars and alcoholic beverages sold at retail are raising some eyebrows. At the same time, small businesses will likely find penalties for noncompliance to be punitive. At the same time, national companies might just label everything with a generic GMO label to be in compliance in Washington State.

Another issue in the discussion is that the GMO label has to be conspicuously posted on the package, raising concern it may push more important nutritional and health information to a place of less prominence.

Finally, I-522 is producing debate about whether organic and GMO production can exist alongside one another.

More editorial voices will weigh in immediately prior to the election. Both yes and no campaigns are up and running on I-522, with both the proponent’s and opponent’s campaign organizations having raised about $3.3 million each.

For whatever it may be lacking in newspaper endorsements, the “Yes on 522” campaign is working to make up for them by publicizing its support from business, fishing and maritime organizations, unions, farmers and ranchers, elected officials and individuals. The “Vote No on 522” campaign just keeps publishing all the editorial support it has received, including from national newspapers that have also weighed in on Washington’s battle at the ballot box.

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