by Maureen Mahoney
Consumers Union’s Dr. Michael Hansen is taking to the airwaves in support of the effort to label genetically engineered (GE) food in Washington State, calling the initiative, “the right choice for Washington consumers.” Dr. Hansen, Senior Scientist at Consumers Union, appeared in a recently-filmed video ad in support of Washington’s ballot initiative 522. The initiative, which is up for a vote on November 5, would require producers to clearly label the presence of genetically modified ingredients in grocery products.
While national polling suggests that consumers overwhelmingly favor GE labeling, the race in Washington remains close. Agribusiness interests have poured over $17 million into the state to defeat the initiative – over three times as much as supporters. Monsanto alone gave $4.6 million in September to opponents of the labeling legislation. This kind of spending in days leading up to the election could have a significant impact on the outcome as evidenced by last year’s ballot battle in California, where a similar labeling initiative was voted down after an outpouring of spending by food and biotech companies.
Other state and local governments are also currently considering labeling legislation. Bills are pending in both New Hampshire and New York that would require labeling of food products that contain genetically engineered ingredients. Passage in these states is critical for the GE labeling movement in New England, as Maine and Vermont are close to passing (and Connecticut has already passed) labeling laws that won’t be enforced until nearby states begin requiring GE labeling as well.
In Hawaii, the island of Kauai’s County Council moved forward on a measure to regulate the farming of genetically engineered plants. The council recently approved a law that would require farmers to make public their use of genetically modified organisms, under certain conditions. The bill is now in the hands of the mayor, who can choose to sign or reject the measure.
We urge you to support labeling efforts and the right to know about GMO ingredients in your food at both the local and national levels. Please take a stand — federal legislation has been introduced to mandate nation-wide GE labeling, and you can click here to show your support.
And if you live in Washington, don’t forget to vote!