GE labeling: what's next
This article was originally published in December 2013
Now that I-522, the state initiative to label genetically engineered foods, failed to pass, what’s next? Certainly, efforts for national labeling continue, as do other state legislative and initiative efforts.
In January, Vermont’s Senate will take up a bill passed by the state House last year (99 to 42). In Oregon, advocates are readying an initiative for next November, in 2014. Additional labeling efforts are underway in Illinois, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
In 2013, nearly half of all U.S. states introduced bills requiring labeling or prohibiting genetically engineered foods. Washington state’s Island County passed a law prohibiting cultivation of GE seeds in 2012.
Meanwhile, the farmers who started I-522 say they might want to try again with another labeling initiative in 2016. Their reasoning is that initiatives often don’t succeed the first time around, plus it was a narrow loss at 49-51, especially for an off-off-year election. Voter turnout across the state was the lowest in 10 years and skewed to older, more conservative voters and away from younger, more progressive voters. An initiative during a presidential election year, such as 2016, promises more young and progressive voters.
Attempts to pre-empt labeling
Meanwhile, the number one donor to the campaign against labeling, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), apparently is working for a federal ban against mandatory labeling. Partly redacted documents filed with the Washington attorney general’s office show GMA has a three-year plan to stop labeling efforts in states across the country.
The documents show GMA is lining up cash for what it calls “a long-range funding mechanism” for its efforts. A total of $11 million from GMA donors, funneled to the No on I-522 campaign through an illegal slush fund, was spent on influencing the election. The state Attorney General is suing GMA for damages.
With or without a labeling law, PCC has pledged to label genetically engineered foods in our stores by 2018.