GMO Update: WA Labeling Initiative Clears Signature Hurdle

Sign: 'I Want to Know if it's GMO!'

The GMO labeling movement gained ground in 2012, culminating in CA’s Prop 37 — outspent nearly 6 to 1 by industry, yet defeated by only 4% of the vote. WA immediately stepped up to the plate with Initiative 522, which (like Prop 37) would require labeling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients.

Last week GMO labeling advocates submitted more than enough signatures to propel I-522 into the legislative limelight. Under WA law, the measure can now be enacted, revised, or sent to voters in November 2013. Good work, WA!

Signatures Galore!

The AG Professional journal reports:

Sponsors turned in petitions signed by an estimated 350,000 registered voters – at least 100,000 more signatures than required – on Thursday [January 3], a day ahead of deadline, said David Ammons, a spokesman for the Washington secretary of state.

The submission all but assures that the GMO-labeling initiative would be certified by the secretary and sent on to the state legislature, which could adopt the measure or leave it to a popular vote on the November 2013 election ballot, Ammons said.

In Washington the legislature could choose to enact I-522 without sending it to the ballot box, but according to State Senator Marilyn Chase (D), the most likely course of events is for the initiative to appear in its original form on the 2013 ballot.

According to the Associated Press,

State lawmakers can either pass the initiative as written, alter it or send it to the voters in November.

Initiative 522 would require food and seeds produced entirely or partly through genetic engineering and sold in Washington to be labeled as such, beginning July 1, 2015. Raw foods that are not packaged separately would have to be labeled on retail shelves.

If legislators choose to alter I-522, the revised initiative will appear on the ballot alongside the original version.

Will WA Boldly Go Where Cali Couldn’t?

There are several reasons to expect great things from WA voters, on the GMO labeling front.

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.

In addition, Washington’s new Governor, Jay Inslee, is a longtime Congressional supporter of GE food labeling and organic agriculture. According to Washington State law, if the state legislature feels there is majority support for a ballot initiative, in this case mandatory GE food labeling, they can pass it into law before it goes for a statewide vote in November 2013.

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 with 61% of the vote.

Game (Definitely Still) ON!

Current polling shows 72% of Washington voters support I-522. 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 nontransparency and nonaccountability 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.

An overwhelming majority of US citizens want our nation to join the ranks of the civilized, in terms of GMO labeling and regulation. Mandatory GMO food labels make sense on many levels; and despite the tooth-gnashing of Monsanto et al, that fact continues its steady (and irreversible) drift into public consciousness.

Vermont and Connecticut plan re-introduction of GMO labeling bills this year, with strong bipartisan voter support, and the New Mexico Senate will begin consideration of labeling bill SB 18 when it reconvenes later this month.

This issue isn’t going anywhere but forward: that particular genie is out of the bottle, and doesn’t look prone to climb back in there. The desperate greed of corporate giants who know they can’t compete in an open market, under accurate labeling laws, will not forever be able to thwart the will of the republic.

So, great work, Washington! We’re rooting for you — make ’em howl!

Then pass it anyway.

Image Credit: Creative Commons photo by MillionsAgainstMonsanto.

  1. Dee

    yay! i’m looking forward to seeing the tremendous and furious efforts of the gmo industry fail miserably in a wave of “we ain’t buyin what you’re sellin.” if any state can do it, it’s washington. i predict a pitiful return on the industry’s investment in this particular fight. go wa go!

  2. Claire

    Definitely can’t wait for this vote! I am working with Food and Water Watch as part of the grassroots campaign to spread awareness and gain signatures. It is amazing to see the response from the public- Washington voters do want GE labeling!!

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