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Debate over WA State GMO Labeling Ballot Initiative Heats Up

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Washington News page.

A Massachusetts biotechnology company has created a salmon that grows twice as fast as its farm-raised peers by introducing DNA from Chinook Salmon and Ocean Pout fish into Atlantic salmon.  And, the resulting AquAdvantage Salmon, referred to by critics as the "frankenfish," could soon be on sale at your local grocery store.

The Food and Drug Administration found these genetically engineered fish do not pose any major health or environmental risks, but some activists are asking whether consumers have the right to know if the salmon they're eating was genetically modified.

That's the issue behind Initiative 522, which would require all genetically engineered foods be labeled in Washington state. While some argue that consumers have a right to choose whether or not they consume genetically engineered foods, others say this initiative is designed to make the public fear products that have been safely consumed for decades. 

Genetic engineering involves producing a piece of DNA and introducing it into an organism to create a desired trait, resulting in a genetically modified organism (GMO). Traditional crossbreeding has been used to create desired traits for centuries, but genetic engineering has proven to be far more precise.

The FDA's current food labeling policy only requires that genetically engineered foods be labeled if the engineered food is significantly different from its traditional counterpart or if its production method materially changes the food's nutritional profile, such as adding an allergen.

I-522 would require labeling any foods produced through genetic engineering, including many kinds of corn and prepackaged foods made with sugar from genetically engineered sugar beets. Foods from restaurants, medical foods, alcohol, meat and dairy would all be exempt. The measure does not ban any genetically engineered foods, it only requires they be labeled.


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