The people of Washington have spoken, for now at least: They have rejected I-522, the proposal that requires labeling of genetically modified foods. Trailing 45 to 55 percent, it looks lost. A vote is a vote and we must respect the outcome, but given the issue here and the amount of money spent by big business opposing I—522, it raises the question whether we the people have really spoken. Do Washingtonians not want to know what is in their food? Or were citizens overcome by huge agribusiness companies that outspent the proponents by nearly 3-to-1 making this the most expensive initiative campaign in state history. Here is the heartbreaking part: according to the Seattle Times, of the $22,000,000 in donations to the campaign, only $550 was contributed from state residents. Good grief. The ability to exert influence in important matters like this one is far from even-handed: the playing field is tilted and the outcome reflects as much.
Labeling on our food is every bit as important for public safety as labeling is for dangerous products. Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) may be dangerous and they may be benign. But we have a right to know what goes in our food, so that we can make our own choices about health, safety and what we serve our families. The proponents of I-522, while disappointed, are proud of the campaign and the awareness it raised; and they are thankfully not giving up the ghost. Future efforts to provide better, complete food labeling are in our future.
In better news, some companies are dropping the phony “natural” claim. Even the Wall Street Journal–long a foe of people exercising their rights to civil justice—had to admit that the changes are coming due to legal action challenging the “naturalness” of all manner of foods from ice cream to potato chips. Likewise, massive meat manufacturer Cargill has finally decided to respond to mounting public pressure to label its mystery meat products that contain the infamous “pink slime” that it puts in ground beef packages. According to the New York Times, Cargill announced that it will label the “finely texturized meat product” in its meat packages on the day voters in Washington decided I-522. Coincidence? Probably not. Cargill’s pink slime—in the form of stacks of green cash—oozed into Washington. According to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission’s database, Cargill spent over $140,000 to defeat I-522. If they will tell us about pink slime, but not GMO, what do they not want us to know?