Monday, September 23, 2013
Television ads for and against initiative 522 have started to appear as the election season draws near, and emotions are high on both sides of the issue.
The proponents of the initiative, which would require labeling certain foods that have been genetically engineered, say the law is necessary to keep Washington competitive in the international market. Proponents claim that many countries Washington exports to already have labeling requirements for genetically modified food.
The “Yes on 522” campaign also says the law will give Washington shoppers more information about what’s in the food they eat and feed their families.
Opponents of the law claim it is poorly written with too many exemptions, in some cases requiring labels on some foods with exemptions for the exact same foods in other situations.
Former Washington State Department of Agriculture Director Dan Newhouse, a Sunnyside-area native, claims the labeling requirements would exempt two-thirds of foods sold in Washington, making the law useless for educating shoppers.
The campaign against 522 also claims the labeling would put Washington state producers at a competitive disadvantage by increasing production costs and record-keeping requirements. They say this will result in higher food prices for the average family, anywhere from $450 to $500 per year.
Proponents claim that labeling is regularly updated on food packaging, meaning this law would barely impact production costs and therefore would have no impact on food prices for Washington shoppers.
Opponents of the law also cite the increased likelihood of lawsuits, suggesting that “shakedown lawsuits” will result as people realize they can sue for mislabeled foods. Proponents claim the law protects against lawsuits with warnings and plenty of time to make the changeover to the new labels.