Voters are already mailing in ballots for food labeling initiative I-522 in Washington State, where large food corporations have set a state record, contributing 17.1 million dollars, to defeat the truth-in-labeling initiative. A ‘Yes’ vote supports labeling of foods to reflect that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are in food where genetic enginnering was utitized. The ballot summary states:
This measure would require foods produced entirely or partly with genetic engineering, as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale in Washington, beginning in July 2015. The labeling requirement would apply generally to raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stock, with some exceptions, but would not require that specific genetically-engineered ingredients be identified. The measure would authorize state enforcement and civil penalties, and allow private enforcement actions.
The ballot is significant in Washington State because, as it explains: “Agriculture is Washington’s number one employer and wheat is Washington’s number two export crop, second only to goods and services produced by the Boeing company, and ahead of Microsoft, which ranks third. Preserving the identity, quality, and reliability of Washington’s agricultural products is of prime importance to our state’s fiscal health.”
Shameless and arrogant agribusiness behemoth Monsanto leads the way in donations to defeat the initiative (ie. election buying), not even bothering, in an oddly honest way, to hide its 4.8 million dollar donation to an effort that would in essence allow dishonesty in food labeling.
Other large companies in the Big Food Lobby like General Mills, Inc. ($598,819), PepsiCo, Inc.($1,620,899), Kellogg Company ($221,852), Nestlé USA, Inc. ($1,052,743) and ConAgra Foods ($285,281), aka Big Junk Foods, slithered around in secret meetings, laundering money and hiding donor disclosure until Washington’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit against ‘junk food lobby’ Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), forcing them to disclose their identities and donation amounts. The disclosure was published on October 18.
Final ballots will be cast in Washington on November 5. Ballot initiative I-522 is similar to California’s Proposition 37, which was narrowly rejected by voters last year. Given the fierce battle that is unfolding in Washington and the amount of money that large companies are pumping into what amounts to a propaganda campaign that one might associate with a different era, some Washington voters fear that the truth-in-labeling initiative in Washington will fail as well.
The bottom line is, Monsanto and its supporters who supply our food do not want to be honest with the consumer, nor do they want the consumer to make informed decisions, for fear that informed decisions will decrease profit. Without even getting into discussions about why, for example, Monsanto’s scientists failed to foresee that weeds would become resistant to their best-selling miracle weed-killer RoundUp, we can surely agree that from a philosophical view, we have a basic right to know whether or not the food we put into our mouths has been produced through a process of genetic modification.
The ballot initiative does not ask, “Do you think Monsanto has done a pretty good job of convincing you that it is not Pure Evil this time around, or do you still want to shower and check for your wallet every time you see their name?”
The initiative states, in pertinent part:
(4) Consumers have the right to know whether the foods they purchase were produced with genetic engineering. The genetic engineering of plants and animals is an imprecise process and often causes unintended consequences. Mixing plant, animal, bacterial, and viral genes in combinations that cannot occur in nature produces results that are not always predictable or controllable, and can lead to adverse health or environmental consequences.
We used to think tobacco was safe and non-addictive but it is neither. Antibiotics were overused and misused for every possible ailment, but now we have MRSA and other horrible antibiotic-resistant illnesses, including the most recent Salmonella outbreak. We never knew that combined hormone therapy after menopause increases the risk for breast cancer, but it does, and now informed of such and given choice, not every post-menopausal woman reaches for the estrogen bottle. None of these analogous historical examples that involved the ‘yet unknown’ scenarios had to do with an issue so large as our food supply, but we should have learned by now, at any rate, at the very least to err on the side of caution.
Setting all political, economic and medical arguments aside, this initiative is important because it has to do with our basic right to information. Our basic right to information should not be for sale, but apparently, it is. One question that comes to mind is this: Is it already too late? Aren’t we already consuming foods with labeling that does not reflect truth?
Related, from DSWright, at Firedoglake: