The success of the nationwide GMO labeling movement has been significantly and unjustly stifled by the lobbying power of corporations in the Agriculture Services & Products Industry like Monsanto, DuPont and Dow Agro. The goals of eligible voters have become secondary to those of such corporations who continue to drastically outspend the grassroots movement. These corporations defeated California’s measure to label genetically engineered (GE) foods, Proposition 37, and are doing their best to smother the current initiative measure in Washington, I-522.
The leading argument against labeling GE foods in Washington is that it would raise prices, punishing the buyer. The claim is, that labeling requirements would force out of state corporations to open new assembly lines specific to Washington, raising costs. However, according to Anita Yandle, a social media coordinator for the Yes campaign in Washington, “that is just false.” She asserts that companies change their labels regularly, for holidays and mascots, without price fluctuation and noted that out of all the countries to impose GMO labeling requirements not one has seen a price increase. Yandle’s claims are backed by those of David Byrne’s, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection for the European Union (EU), who reported that GMO labeling requirements, “did not result in increased costs,” in any EU countries or Norway.
Besides the erroneous claims of the No campaign, GMO labeling is simply what the public wants. Nationwide and local polls consistently show the American people in favor of GMO labeling. Recent Washington Post and ABC News polls showed 95 and 93 percent of Americans in favor of GMO labeling respectively.
According to the Center for Food Safety, 26 states including Washington have brought up measures putting some sort of limitation on GE foods this year. From Oregon’s house bill, subjecting GE foods to labeling, to Alaska’s bill, asking for further research and labeling on GE salmon, residents have been fighting for their right to know. Out of the 26 state measures, five have failed to pass, been withdrawn or modified while the rest will be determined this November.
Last year, California attempted to require GMO labeling with Proposition 37. While it had a strong initial support, an Organic Consumer Fund poll showed over 80% of state residents in favor of GE labeling, the proposition failed to pass.
With such mass support, why did it fail and why do current measures raise so much controversy? The issue lies outside the proceedings of the citizens, in the hands of the deep pocketed corporate opposers of the cause.
The Agriculture Services & Products Industry spent $45 million to defeat California’s proposition, while supporters raised under $7 million. It was a David and Goliath type battle with an unhappy ending.
Now, with Monsanto alone spending over $5 million on the No campaign for I-522, the same situation is brewing in Washington. Ms. Yandle also noted the “mind boggling” amount of money “corporate donors have put in to stop [the Yes campaign] from having a voice.” “They’re everywhere” she said, “just spreading false information and misleading ideas about labeling.”
Grassroots movements such as GMO labeling are losing their voice in the marketplace to large corporations with deep pockets. As a minor, I will not be able to vote next week. Instead I urge all eligible voters to take action and vote in accordance with what they think is best for Washington not what is best for Monsanto, DuPont and Dow Agro.