This week Capitol Hill’s Central Co-Op on East Madison Street endorsed I-522, the initiative that, if passed, will require corporations to label genetically modified foods. More than 353,000 Washingtonians signed a petition to have I-522 added to legislature, and the fall ballot is fast approaching.
Hundreds of farmers, as well as dozens of fishers and seafood companies, the Washington Nurses Association, and the community at large, support 522, and believe in a shopper’s right to know the content of the groceries that they’re buying. Besides a swell of restaurants, other supportive organizations throughout Seattle include PCC Natural Markets and Whole Foods. The only obvious opponents are big food corporations that have money on the line, not wanting labels to discourage shoppers from buying their products.
The Grocery Manufactures Association, which is an association for big food companies, like Kellogg, General Mills and Nabisco, just gave an additional $1.75 million (now totaling $2.2 million) to oppose I-522, which is more money against the initiative than they spent in California’s similar campaign, even though California has 18 million voters, and we have 3.9 million voters. In total, I-522’s opposition includes just 5 out-of-state corporate donors, while those in favor of I-522 tally over 5,000 individual donors, with 90 percent of them living in Washington State.
“They’re more worried about their bottom line than about giving their customers a right to know what’s in the food that they’re manufacturing. They don’t believe in transparency,” Yes On 522’s Communications Director, Elizabeth Larter, told The Capitol Hill Times.
But consider the labels that already stock grocery store shelves: most processed foods’ ingredient lists contain chemical, unrecognizable ingredients. The public still buys and consumes these products, even when it’s known that they’re a health risk. Would adding a slot for genetically engineered products make a difference?
“This is all about giving us that piece of information so that we can make that choice. So, if you really care about how much sodium or sugar, or if the flavors are natural or artificial in your food, that’s labels, right? And you can make the choice of whether or not to eat it,” Larter said. “What we’re asking for is a label on the front of the package for processed foods that says whether the food has been genetically engineered or not, and then it’s up to the individual shopper to decide if they want to buy it. It really is just about giving shoppers more choices at the grocery store.”
Voting on the issue is better sooner than later, too, since every year more pesticides are being used. Crops are meant to withstand pesticides so that when they’re sprayed, only the bugs die.
“What they have found over time, since we have been using genetically engineered crops now for about 10 to 15 years, is that pesticide use is on the rise because crops have adapted. Mother Nature has adapted,” Larter said.
Capitol Hill businesses endorsing I-522 include: Altura, Café Flora, Café Presse, Café Vita, Central Co-Op, Cupcake Royal, Dinette, La Spiga, Luc, Majorie Restaurant, Manhattan, Plum Bistro, Poppy, Quinn’s Pub, Restaurant, Shanik and Zoe.