As Washingtonions prepare to vote November 5, news and funding is coming in on both sides of the long-heated debate around an initiative to require labeling of genetically modified foods and agricultural products.
Washington Initiative-522 cites 49 countries that mandate similar labeling for genetically engineered (GE) products. After gathering 2,600 petition signatures, I-522 has gotten attention in other states across the nation and around the world.
Consider the implications of this initiative: for starters, how much money is at stake in the organic industry? The initiative states that Washington sells $281 million in organic farm products annually, making it the second largest organic producer in the nation. Furthermore, “the organic industry is creating jobs at four times the national rate,” and ensuring the integrity of organic crops and products is vital to protect this valuable, growing industry.
And how much is at stake in the non-organic foods and products industry? This number is harder to quantify, but if pushback is an indicator of economic value, this is the most valuable single-issue campaign in United States history.
As Civil Eats recently stated, “the current ‘No on 522’ campaign war chest total [is] $21.9 million, the most well-endowed single-issue campaign in state history.” And because nearly 10% of Washington’s annual organic sales are being met by this one-time injection of anti-labeling funds, many consider the vote a toss-up.
The majority of funding for the “No on 522” campaign is from familiar agribusinesses: Dupont, Monsanto, PepsiCo, Nestle, Coca-Cola, and the list goes on. But the funding source many citizens hadn’t heard about is the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which represents hundreds of multinational agri-business corporations.
The “No on 522” campaign efforts highlight the initiative as “costly,” claiming it will hurt farmers and producers, and that it is altogether “unnecessary because the market is already giving shoppers valid and useful information about food, unlike the inaccurate and inconsistent label proposed in I-522.”
The website for the “Yes on 522” campaign, by contrast, highlights how the initiative would benefit Washington’s fishing, wheat and apple industries. Endorsements include Washington Conservation Voters, Sierra Club Washington, United Farm Workers, Washington State Nurses Association, Pike Place Fish Market and Washington Toxics Coalition.