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Additionally, if passed it's likely that I-522 would open the floodgates to dozens if not hundreds of citizen lawsuits over potential misbranding—which can carry fines of up to $1,000 per violation per day.
What benefits would the law confer on Washington State residents? It's not clear.
Even the preamble of the ballot measure acknowledges the growing success of "foods identified as produced without genetic engineering" (emphasis mine). If it's the case that foods voluntarily identified as non-GMO are increasingly successful, then there's little or no need or rationale to force makers of foods containing GMOs to identify their products as such.
Some supporters of the Washington ballot measure downplay these serious flaws evident in I-522, and instead blast opponents of the measure as out-of-state carpetbaggers. In many cases, they're absolutely right.
Monsanto, Pepsi, and the Grocery Manufacturers of America are some of the chief opponents of I-522. But consider that most of the food that Washington State residents eat comes from outside the state. So it makes perfect sense, does it not, that a company like Pepsi that makes and sells food in all fifty states would oppose a Washington State measure that would mandate that some percentage of Pepsi's products would have to be sold in Washington State either with a costly new label solely for use in the state or, alternately, would have to carry a Washington State-specific label nationally.
But if I-522 opponents are carpetbaggers, then so too are its supporters. After all, the Washington State initiative has been billed from the start as just the latest target of "the national movement for labeling food and beverages containing genetically modified organisms"
Many of its chief supporters, including the Center for Food Safety, Dr. Bronners, and Whole Foods—which I suspect would oppose the Thom Hartmann-endorsed mandatory "grown in animal feces" warning label for organic foods—are similarly based outside the state.
"We are proud to support Yes on 522 and to work with the campaign staff daily," says the website of Austin, TX-based Whole Foods. (Whole Foods also threw its support behind California's failed Prop 37 GMO-labeling ballot measure last year.)
Nevertheless, it's voters in the state whose opinions ultimately matter most. And after a strong start, it appears I-522 may be running out of gas.
Supporters lament how the "once-popular initiative is now statistically tied in the polls."
And David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's, who leads fundraising efforts for the "yes on 522" side, now seems to be steeling supporters for a loss. ""Even if we lose here we're still feeding the national debate and conversation," he told Reuters this week.
That's the same pattern evident in California last year, where Prop 37 went down in flames after leading in the polls for months. And it's one that's been mimicked nationally, too, where neither the Obama administration, Congress, nor the FDA appears willing to or interested in forcing GMO labeling on farmers, grocers, and consumers. This is true despite the broken old saw that 90% of Americans support mandatory GMO labeling.
Let me reiterate here what I've written in various columns at least a half-dozen times. I am entirely indifferent to GMO foods and farming (as is Keep Food Legal, the nonprofit I lead). And I believe the government should be equally indifferent. For example, Congress should stop subsidizing GMO corn via the Farm Bill and should also never repeat anything like the terrible Monsanto Protection Act.
But that doesn't mean consumers need be indifferent.