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Washington Initiative Would Require Labeling of Genetically Modified Food

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

YAKIMA - Any food in Washington state made from genetically engineered crops would have to be labeled under an initiative submitted today.

The proposal comes two months after California voters rejected a similar ballot measure in a nearly $55 million advertising war that pitted food safety advocates against agricultural and biotechnology giants.

Opponents of GMO labeling argue it will raise food prices and hurt farmers. Supporters contend that consumers should have a choice of whether or not to eat genetically engineered products, even though the federal government and major science groups say such foods are safe to eat. The supporters promised to take their fight to the Northwest after the California ballot measure failed last fall.

An initiative to the Washington Legislature requires at least 241,153 valid signatures of registered state voters to be certified, though the secretary of state's office suggests at least 320,000 as a buffer for any duplicate or invalid signatures.

Initiative sponsors delivered 350,000 signatures today in an ambulance with a sign reading "Label GMO Food" on the side.

Initiative 522 would require food and seeds produced entirely or partly through genetic engineering and sold in Washington to be labeled as such, beginning July 1, 2015. Under the measure, raw foods that are not packaged separately would have to be labeled on the retail shelf.

Supporters say consumers benefit from having more information.

"Yes, you can steer clear of certain items, but unless you know that they're there, how do you know to steer clear of them?" asked Chris McManus, the initiative sponsor and owner of a small advertising firm. "Putting a label on the front of that just informs the consumer a little bit more about what they're buying."

The nation's food labeling system is already built around giving consumers information about health and safety, countered Heather Hansen, executive director of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests.
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