Organic Consumers Association

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Big Food Crushes Consumer Rights in Washington State

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

When you look at the numbers, how could Washington State's ballot initiative to require the labeling of foods made with genetically engineered ingredients ever stand a chance?

I'm not talking about poll numbers. I'm talking about money.

Just six weeks ago, voters supported the measure by a 3-to-1 margin. But that was before Big Ag bankrolled a barrage of negative and misleading ads.

Shortly before voters got to weigh in on Initiative 522, polls pointed to a tight race but the consumer-friendly measure still looked like it might pass. Shortly before Election Day, the opposition ponied up nearly $5 million for last-minute ad buys to guarantee a decisive win for Big Food. Corporate America outspent its grassroots foes by a 3-to-1 margin, rapidly skewing public opinion.

Genetic engineering entails inserting genes from one species into the DNA of another species. For example, scientists alter a tomato plant with a fish gene. Nowadays, these newfangled ingredients are in an estimated 60 to 70 percent of foods sold in U.S. supermarkets.

Odds are, unless you only eat organic food, you're eating them yourself. And, if you're like most Americans, you had no idea.

Washington isn't the first state to try to label genetically engineered foods. Connecticut recently adopted a law that's contingent on other nearby states following suit. New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, and New York have considered it too.

In 61 other countries, companies already comply with laws making this information mandatory.    

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