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Washington GMO initiative easily clears signatures bar, gets strong poll support

3 commentsBy Hank Schultz , 08-Jan-2013
Last updated the 08-Jan-2013 at 21:56 GMT

Supporters of a Washington State ballot initiative that would require GMO labeling have turned in more than 340,000 signatures to the secretary of state’s office, well in excess of the number required for certification, the campaign said. Supporters said early polls show strong support for the initiative.

The initiative, titled I-522 , must now be certified, all but a certainty as it needs slightly more than 240,000 valid signatures.  After that it goes to the legislature, said one of the issue’s supporters, State Sen. Marilyn Chase, a Democrat representing a north suburban Seattle district. 

According to state law, the legislature can adopt the measure as law, send it on to the voters or it can send an amended version that would appear on the November, 2013 ballot alongside the original version. It’s most likely that the legislature will send the initiative on to the voters as it stands now, Chase told FoodNavigator-USA.

Strong support

“We have polling showing that 72% of the people in this state support this initiative,” she said.

“I believe very definitely that I have the right to know what kind of food I am putting in my body.  For me it’s primarily a huge matter of choice.

"I recognize that the science is not totally in.  We truly do not know whether this GMO food is safe or if it is not,” she said.

“I-522 would give us what Alaska already has and that’s a law making sure that  genetically engineered  fish are labeled. That’s for starters,” said Trudi Bialic, director of public affairs for PCC Natural Markets in Seattle, the largest consumer owned food co-op in the US. Bilalic has been a member of the campaign’s steering community.

“We’re really concerned about protecting the identity and integrity Washington export products to GE sensitive markets,” she said.

Lawsuit potential

A similar initiative, Proposition 37, was rejected by voters in California in November.  Opponents, which included the Council for Responsible Nutrition, cited what they called flaws in the initiative, including a private enforcement clause that they said could lead to a rash of class action lawsuits similar to the situation that exists in California under Prop 65.

Since 1993, Washington has required farmed salmon to be so labeled, Chase said.

“We are not asking for anything that isn’t already being done,” she said.

I-522 also includes a private enforcement provision, one that appears similar to that in Prop 37.  It allows private citizens to file suit to enforce the law if state officials do not take action 60 days after being notified of  a violation.  The clause also allows citizens to recover investigation costs and attorneys’ fees.

Chase said she was aware of the risk of lawsuits but said the clause is necessary to make sure the law is enforced.

“I think it necessary because I think that oftentimes that even with our farmed salmon labeling we had to go to court to make sure it was enforced.  The grocery stores were ignoring it.  You have laws on the books and some of the corporations chose to ignore it,” she said.

Costs already built in

Other criticisms raised by Prop 37 opponents concerned added costs to comply with labeling requirements, costs that would be passed on to customers.

Bialic dismissed these concerns, saying food companies already change labels regularly, and already use GMO labels in the 62 countries that require it.

“If you look at it in very flat, objective economic concerns, there is not question about what should be done here,” she said.

“They are already starting these scare tactics, saying it’s going to raise your grocery bill. Food companies change labels every 18 months.  That’s not going to raise the cost of food.  We got trans fat labels in 2006;  it didn’t raise the cost of food.  It’s already built in to the cost of food,” she said.

3 comments (Comments are now closed)

Let's Hope Experience Was a Good Teacher

I'm thrilled to hear that Wasingtonians aren't letting the California debacle slow them down. Let's hope that the experience of seeing how the false advertising and scare tactics rolled out by Big Food/Pharma swayed Californians, will leave the Washington voters wise to their tactics.
We need just one state to start turning the tide. I sincerely hope that Washington will do the honors.

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Posted by Jennifer Christiano
10 January 2013 | 19h43

Look into the science

GM food has been consumed without harm for over 15 years.

http://www.latimes.com/news/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-gmo-food-safety-conversion-mark-lynas-20130108,0,2270106.story

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Posted by Motion
09 January 2013 | 18h51

Who will be shilling for Monsanto Now?

Who is shilling for Monsanto in Washington?

Newspapers?
Newspaper Editors?
Academics?
Fake Scientists?
Phony Researchers?

Monsanto and Friends were able to fool the (pesticide laden) people of California's Central Valley--with the help of newspaper propaganda, yellow journalism, phony academics and "scientists," incessant radio and television brainwashing, and much else.

Be smarter than California, Washington!

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Posted by No Monsanto Man
09 January 2013 | 04h38

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