GMO Update: WA Next Contender for Viable Labeling Law?

Bumper Sticker: Label It, MM'K?

Thanks to intensive and often deceptive marketing by Monsanto and other ‘Big Food’ megacorporations, CA’s Prop 37 didn’t quite make it — though it came very close! Despite being outspent 5 to 1, pro-labeling forces claimed 47% of the vote last month.

Energized by the near-victory, labeling advocates in 30 states are ramping up legislative efforts to require fair labeling of GMO foods. Washington state looks poised to step up as the next big battleground: if advocates for initiative I-522 obtain enough signatures by the end of December, WA voters could see a ballot measure requiring GMO labeling as soon as November 2013. They need your help — read on, for what you can do to support Washington’s GMO labeling efforts!

WA: Batter Up!

The Label It WA team has collected about 230,000 signatures towards getting this labeling initiative before voters. They need about 100,000 more by the end of December, to make sure they clear the threshhold of 241,153 signatures necessary to get I-522 on the November 2013 ballot.

Washington offers some strategic advantages to the labeling movement, as compared to California. 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 month 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.

Big food companies made defeating CA’s Prop 37 their ‘highest priority,’ last month, and — with upwards of $45 million spent on deceptive anti-labeling advertising — it worked. But with such overwhelming support from both voters and the state’s governor, and the potential for I-522 to become law before a vote is even held, Washington’s labeling movement just might be more than they can handle!

Click here to see what you can do to help!

Image credit: Creative Commons photo by Millions Against Monsanto.

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15 thoughts on “GMO Update: WA Next Contender for Viable Labeling Law?”

  1. Let’s hope it doesn’t contain the same flaws, e.g. lawyer feeding trough, exemptions, nonsensical GMO fear mongering, etc., as California’s Prop. 37. If so, it will meet defeat again. Similar measures have been defeated in Oregon, Maine and Vermont, and that is what happens when you get too many chefs cooking the soup. Keep the language simple: Do you want GMO ingredients in your foodstuffs to contain a label informing you or their presence? That simple. Don’t paste on a bunch of additional language that benefits certain interest groups.

    1. Hi there, Buck! I see you’re a first-time EDB commenter, and a corporate attorney.

      What a delightful time for you to finally ‘make the plunge’ and join the EDB community! I’m sure you’ll love reading about vegan recipes, organic agriculture, and sustainable food policy…

      Just out of idle curiosity… any chance you utilized your “overzealous drive to have HLS’ clients successfully overcome their legal issues and challenges” in service of the biotech industry, or other anti-37 campaigners, during the recent election cycle? I don’t mean to pry, but you’d be surprised how many first-and-only-time commenters pop up when I tag something GMO… then I trace their IP address or whatever to Monsanto groups or industry PR firms. It’s embarrassing for shills, in such cases, so if there’s anything you’d like to disclose…?

      If not, forgive my suspicious nature. Please believe that such skepticism has been well earned, based on transparently paid-marketing comments on similar EDB posts.

      Anti-labeling forces didn’t saturate the airwaves with deceptive (but effective) foolishness because of the language of the law: the problem was the nature of the law, i.e. requiring GMO labeling. Earlier this year, they were just as determined to defeat labeling laws in CT and VT, by any means necessary — it’s not the language of a given law, it’s that it would require GMO labeling! That’s the source of the outrage and desperate no-holds-barred PR efforts — if it were just a language issue, we wouldn’t see the same behavior over and over and over any time someone tries to pass a labeling law.

      The measures you refer to, btw, weren’t ‘defeated’ — CA was the first ballot initiative. The others were legislative bills with broad bipartisan support, until Monsanto flexed their political muscle and superceded the machinery of representative democracy with threats of endless litigation, if they didn’t get their way. Those labeling bills were squashed by Monsanto’s political power, not defeated by voters.

      That model for food policy is goin’ down, my friend — it’s only a matter of time.

      The fanatical and histrionic multi-million-dollar frenzy of opposition to labeling laws isn’t about the language of a given law: it’s frantic opposition to the idea of labeling, itself. Last time, even with your opined ‘flawed’ proposed law, and with pro-labeling forces being outspent 5 to 1, they only lost by 5 percentage points.

      The writing’s on the wall: the GMO labeling issue isn’t going away. Kicking and screaming will the foolish be dragged into the 21st century, vis-a-vis fair and accurate food labels in the US… why, someday maybe we’ll even be as progressive in our approach to GMO regulation as China and Kenya!

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts; glad you’re reading… for whatever reason.

  2. Tanya: I repeat – make the language simple; “Do you as a consumer wish to have GMO ingredients in your foodstuffs labeled so you can be informed of what you are eating?” I don’t give a hoot about the tangential industry theories that you hold, just, as an attorney, I know the special interest involved — from both industry and organic perspectives. You have a right to your own opinions, but not to your own facts. And the fact is, California voters rejected Prop. 37, backed up by editorials from all the major newspapers in the state, because it was poorly conceived and written. Keep it simple if you want something to pass.

    1. I’m not in charge of writing any of these bills; but I’m sure there’s a learning curve in play, as pro-labeling forces move forward.

      What facts do you refer to? I think I’m pretty consistent with stating opinion as opinion, and providing reference data for facts, so I’m not quite sure what you mean, there.

      You assert that the 5% margin of loss for 37 is solely based on the assessment you offer… do you have conclusive data on that? Otherwise it’s opinion. It may be a valid opinion, and it may not be; I wouldn’t presume to claim that the wording of prop 37 was completely perfect in every way, and maybe the factors you mention played a role for some voters. But: it is fact that EVERY labeling law introduced so far has drawn the same level of hostility from the biotechnology industry — and I do have data supporting that, if you’d like to read more… my interpretation of that data is that it seems to be the labeling itself driving the opposition, not the specific language of one particular proposed law.

      But we’ll see what Washington does with that ball, now that they’ve picked it up and started running down the court!

  3. To Buck:

    Just an observation Buck. My wife uses this blog site for all the various receipes and health advice because she is a health nut … always jogging and working out and eating plenty of veggies and fruits. However, as you might have observed Buck, the blog site is written by all women and does great for the purposes it is intended for. However, when you veer into the realm of GMOs, you might be more enlightened by visiting these web sites: Sustainablog, GMO Pundit (David Tribe is an Australian biologist and genetic engineer, Applied Mythology (one contributor is Steve Savage, a San Diego biologist who is quite bright), Tom Philpott who writes for Mother Jones magazineand is pro-organic and anti-agchem but has an open mind and is flexible in his reasoning, and Biofortified. If you seriously are interested in agricultural matters and specifically GMO issues, these blog posts will serve you well. As I said EDB is a great blog for light fare, but many of its authors are devoted foodies, anti-conventional cropping in which pesticides and fertilizers are used, and are quite rigid and unyielding and passionate concerning their beliefs. This is not to criticize them, only to draw a distinction between other sites where your dialogue might be accepted on a more objective level. Any way, good luck.

    1. Wow, chuck, what a bunch of condescending tripe. I think it’s a sign of the weakness of your arguments, when you need to reach for gender stereotyping to defend them. I can’t help wondering what brought you here? Why worry your pretty little head with what us gals are nattering on about, over tea & crepes?

      Do you really think that anyone who sees a problem with GMO agriculture just can’t see the issue clearly, due to having a vagina?

      Really?! Wow.

      Unoriginal, uncompelling, uninspiring, regressive, and illogical world view: thanks ever so much for sharing it! ‘Cause a little comedy is always welcome, you know, for that quiet afternoon time between doing our hair and mixing up the mint juleps.

      If you ever wanna sully your big man-hands with some actual debate or anything, you know, with actual data-driven arguments related to the relative merits of different types of food or agriculture: feel free to pop back by. Otherwise… you know… not so much.

    1. You know, Chuck… I’m actually kind of embarrassed for you.

      I’ll let other (actual) EDB readers decide who’s making sense here and who isn’t.

      Any time someone tries to turn debate about a complex issue away from logic, reason, and skeptical inquiry towards emotional knee-jerk issues like sexism and misogyny, it’s appropriate to ask why.

      I hypothesize that — since Chuck doesn’t even pretend to be a reader of EDB, that’s just his li’l ol’ silly-headed wife — there’s something going on here worth noting. Why would someone trot out such 11th century inflammatory gender nonsense, in a debate about GMO labeling?

      It’s certainly not to further consumer awareness, or thoughtful consideration of the issues. Any time someone uses that particular tactic, in my experience, there are motives to create distraction, obfuscation, and confusion rather than to facilitate skeptical inquiry and sound decision-making.

      If you fall for that kind of debate manipulation, you’re as stupid as Chuck thinks you are. The GMO issue, even just the labeling portion of that issue, deserves your careful and skeptical consideration. The pro-labeling side of the debate encourages that; opponents depend on deception, distraction, and misdirection.

      Once again, as so often occurs, foolish comments on GMO-related posts make the argument better than I could alone: this industry needs reform!

      Thanks bunches, Chuck, for helping me to make that case. Cheers!

      Oh, and by the way, you’re spam now. If you can’t bring better thoughts to the party than what you’ve presented here so far, you’re uninvited. I’m sure you won’t miss us (and vice-versa). Ta-ta!

    2. hahahaha! Excellent! Yet another troll outed, for reader amusement: a quick trace of ‘Chuck’s’ IP addy indicates he’s representing the industry trade association known as the Western Plant Health Association, described on Wiki as follows:

      “Western Plant Health Association is a nonprofit trade organization that represents the interests of fertilizer and crop protection manufacturers, biotechnology providers, distributors and retailers in California, Arizona and Hawaii…”

      When you can’t win an argument on its merits, I guess this is the sort of foolishness you have to resort to… fun stuff! Thanks for playing, Chuck. It’s been awesome. PS, your side is doomed, because this is the best you’ve got!

      You have a great day, now!

  4. wowzers, tanya! i knew that the people on the industry’s pr payroll were not averse to using nasty tactics to tear down alternate viewpoints and the people who make them, but the resort to actual hate rhetoric is kind of alarming, both in terms of how unacceptable and inappropriate it is for reasons unrelated to the gmo debate and for the degree of desperation and subsequent lack of boundaries and common sense that this desperation reveals. it reminds me of the rule that says you know you’ve won the argument when the best your opponent can do is compare you to hitler. it isn’t just silly fru-fru fluff, it’s also deliberately incendiary so as to distract from the actual core debate, as you have so astutely pointed out. if they can’t use their argument’s merits to advance their cause they resort to gimmicks, in this case hate-filled ones. and while it’s sad to see humans behaving in this way, as a pro-label advocate i am somewhat comforted to see such a clear indicator that the losing side of the argument, ie, the current incarnation of the gm industry, is in its death throes; ultimately the hate only hastens its demise. good work yet again! i will share this article far and wide, especially to those who haven’t yet made up their minds about gmos because the exchange here is so telling. your writing would not draw such attacks if it were not spot on, and the grace and authority with which you put those attacks in their proper place is admirable. i raise my mint julep to you, madam!

  5. I support Tanya in her dislike of GMO products. I also think they should be banned because they are dangerous and, as she points out, many studies have shown GMO cause tumors, obesity, cancer and diabetes in humans and they are killing thousands of people every day. They are more dangerous than smoking. When is the world going to wake up to this fact and outlaw these poisons? I suppport you Tanya. We need to label these radioactive ingredients so we can avoid them at the grocery stores!

    1. Wow, what a remarkable coincidence!

      Here’s Linda’s location:

      Country: United States
      State/Region: California
      City: Sacramento
      Latitude: 38.5816
      Longitude: -121.4944

      Area Code: 916

      … and here’s Chuck’s:

      Country: United States
      City: Sacramento
      Latitude: 38.5853
      Longitude: -121.4005

      Area Code: 916

      OMG you guys — by complete utter wild and random chance, you and ol’ Chuck practically seem to work in the same office building!! What a totally weird and haphazard coincidence, right?!

      Once again, it’s worth readers’ notice: anti-labeling advocates love to distract and skew! Indeed, it is their only hope. In this case, it’s by trying to hyperbolize the pro-labeling argument, in a pitiful attempt to mischaractarize what are in fact very good reasons to require labeling for GMO foods. The only one saying any of that stuff, Linda, is your own sweet self — and for transparently non-consumer-advocacy related reasons.

      Cases in point: sweeping statements like ‘GMOs are safe’ or ‘GMOs are dangerous’ are scientifically meaningless, since every new thing that’s never been in our food before must be assessed on its own merits (or lack thereof). I have never ‘pointed out’ ANYTHING about the effect of GMO consumption on human health, b/c those studies don’t exist: WHICH IS THE PROBLEM that GMO labeling would be the first step towards rectifying. We don’t know if they’re more dangerous than smoking or not: your industry hasn’t let anyone investigate the question, let alone publish results. And if you find even one reference to GMO foods being called radioactive, by any labeling advocate, I will give you a dollar.

      For the actual arguments in favor of GMO labeling, vs Linda’s hyperbolic parody, go here:

      The arguments in favor of labeling are strong; and those against are weak. That’s why you guys have nothing to counter with, except nonsense. Every effort like this will backfire, as public awareness of the issue rises. Meanwhile, thanks for the entertainment! Keep it up — if you do, the future of GMO labeling in the US is lookin’ rosy. :)

      1. HILARIOUS!!! surely the industry can do better than this, right?? i almost feel it’s not a fair fight: we can’t compete with them financially, but they’re no match for our brains! i’m tempted to say that with such sloppy, shoddy work they should probably be fired, but that would both be in the industry’s overall interests and would withhold this illustrative amusement from edb’s readership. so, keep it comin’! :-D

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