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Published on September 18th, 2013 | by Tanya Sitton

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#YesOn522: Washington’s GMO Labeling Initiative Draws Industry Wrath, Voter Support

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Protest sign, 'I want to know WTF I'm eating!'

Biotech megacorporations learned from Prop 37 that your vote is for sale — at least, that’s what they think they learned. Washington’s upcoming GMO labeling initiative known as I-522 looks posed to turn that assumption on its head, with 66% of voters polled in that state saying they will definitely or probably vote in favor of mandatory GMO labeling this November.

Monsanto and other food industry moguls began this week throwing money at the ‘problem’ of transparency in food labeling, with another multimillion-dollar spending spree to convince voters they don’t need to know what they’re eating. Will Monsanto & Friends’ advertising blitz trump transparency (again)? Time will tell – but don’t bet on it!

Food Industry vs. Transparency: the Rematch!

Last November California’s GMO labeling bill known as Prop 37 lost by only a micro-mini margin, despite extensive (often intentionally deceptive) PR campaigns by food industry behemoths. Industry forces outspent the pro-labeling camp by nearly 6 to 1, yet won by only 4% of the vote.

It could certainly happen again, if WA voters allow themselves to be dazzled by glitzy biotech-funded ad campaigns.

Not all food companies have positioned themselves to oppose GMO labeling progress — some savvy capitalist-types see which way the storm winds blow, and endorse I-522.

Brave New Battlefield?

Like Prop 37, I-522 would require labeling for foods containing genetically modified ingredients. But Washington’s ballot initiative stands to benefit from several factors that weren’t in play for its CA predecessor.

According to the Organic Consumers’ Association,

I-522 already has strong support from Washington farmers, ranchers, and dairies, both organic and conventional, who are up in arms about the economic and environmental threats posed by genetically engineered wheat, apples, and alfalfa.  Plus, Washington is far smaller than California in terms of population and registered voters and boasts a powerful network of co-ops, independent natural food stores, and grassroots organizations who are already fully on board with the campaign.

Since Prop 37′s defeat in November 2012, we’ve seen GMO debacles involving apparently renegade GMO wheat and alfalfa; Monsanto’s Bt corn has become the new poster-child for GMO failure due to pest resistance; a former genetic engineer recently spoke out in a TED talk indicting GMO-driven agriculture; a national restaurant chain implemented voluntary GMO labeling; and several national food retailers spoke out in favor of GMO labeling. Public opinion shifts continually, making anything possible in terms of ballot initiatives; but so far the national trend appears to favor the pro-transparency side of the labeling debate.

It’s also worth noting that even as Prop 37 was being narrowly defeated last November in CA, voters in San Juan county, Washington, turned out to ban GMO crops: 

Measure No. 2012-4, led by organic farmers and other citizens, makes it illegal to “propagate, cultivate, raise or grow plants, animals and other organisms which have been genetically modified.”

That anti-GMO measure passed in Washington last November — even as Prop 37 succumbed to industry maneuvering, a couple of states down the coast – with 61% of the vote.

What’s the Big Deal, Anyway?

If you’re new to the issue, takes some time to explore all the reasons that GMO agriculture and GMO labeling deserve your attention — then share what you find out!

What Can You Do?

Glad you asked!

Contact Yes on 522 to get involved — volunteer opportunities abound! Follow them on Twitter @Yeson522 and like their Facebook page, to keep up with the latest news from the GMO labeling front. The Big Ag spin doctors will be working furiously during the next few weeks to convince Washington voters that transparency is a terrible idea: fight back by sharing this article and others like it!

The chemical companies profiting from biotech crops — and funding anti-transparency PR efforts – absolutely depend on consumer ignorance. Each article or story or blog post you share to increase public awareness of the issue denies them that vital ignorance, and makes fair and accurate GMO labeling ever-more imminent.

Meanwhile, to keep the financial pressure turned to ‘high’ on the GMO labeling scene…

  • Shop organic to the greatest degree possible. Not all non-organic foods are GMOs — conventional agriculture utilizes synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, without genetically modified and patented seeds. But unfortunately — until we get mandatory labeling in the US – there’s generally no way to be sure a given food is GMO free, unless it’s labeled organic.
  • You can also look for the Non-GMO Project Verified seal, on packaged foods.
  • Plant a garden, and support local growers! If you grow it yourself, you know exactly what kind of seed you used; if you know your farmer, you can say, ‘Yo Jim (or Kate, or whatever) — tell me about this squash!’
  • Since our subsidy system (surprise!) favors the GM giants that staff the USDA, organics tend to be more expensive. Cooking more foods from scratch — buying ingredients rather than packaged food items — saves grocery money with which to prioritize organics.
  • When you’re on a budget (and who isn’t?!), prioritize your organic dollars: corn, soy, and thin-skinned produce top the list! Go here for more on GMO-free shopping.

Cautious Optimism, Anyone?

Monsanto, Dow, and other Big Ag behemoths will undoubtedly throw a multi-million-dollar hissyfit (again) to sway voters against their own interests (as citizens who eat food), and towards non-transparency and non-accountability for GMO profiteers.

But this time when they howl, it just might be the noisy death throes of a corrupt and unsustainable industry, in mourning for the mandatory consumer ignorance on which their empire rests — full of sound and fury, as it were, but signifying nothing.

Here’s hopin’!

So like, tweet, share, and shout: yes on 522!

Image credit: GMO protest photo via Shutterstock.

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About the Author

is an ecovore, veganist, messy chef, green girl, food revolutionary, and general free-thinkin' rabble-rouser. M.S. in a health profession, with strong interests in biology, nutrition, and healthy living - find her on .



  • John Farthing

    This splendid article deserves wide readership. I’m passing it on. Ms. Sitton’s “Cautious optimism” seems justified, although I almost don’t dare to let myself believe that the reign of industrialized agriculture is coming to an end. Still this is not time for cynicism and despair. Many thanks to EDB for spreading the word about the dangers we face, ways to resist them, and the signs of hope that keep popping up here and there.

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