Food Processors Announce Opposition to I-522, Genetically Modified Crop Initiative

By The 9th Order
Washington State Wire

A worker in the state elections office readies petitions for the counting of signatures last Thursday.

A worker in the state elections office readies petitions for the counting of signatures last Thursday.

Consider this another sign that the debate over Initiative 522 is going to get awfully heated, awfully fast. The Northwest Food Processors Association has delivered its opening salvo against the measure, which would require the labeling of seed and food with genetically modified DNA. It was a biggie in California last year, and it’s probably coming to a ballot near you.

The measure, favored by activists and a small but vocal segment of the farming community, is modeled after a California measure that failed at the polls last November. It would mandate labels for the Washington market, meaning that products sold on Washington shelves would have to be segregated and labeled differently than those sold in other states. And it appears likely that opposition will mirror that in the Golden State last year — from agribusiness, grocers, general business groups and biotech manufacturers.

Though the press release is dated last Friday, the day after proponents dropped off signatures with state elections officials, it arrived in reporters’ email baskets Tuesday. Until the measure is certified for the ballot, it is unlikely that an opposition campaign will file formal papers – but it looks like that is just a matter of time. Here’s what the release says:

Northwest Food Processors Association Respond to State-Level Food Labeling Initiative

Portland, Ore., Jan. 4 – Northwest Food Processors Association (NWFPA) responded today in opposition to I-522, an initiative that would require Washington-only labels on thousands of common food products.

Similar to Prop 37—which failed in California—Initiative 522 would require labels on any food products sold in Washington that contain genetically modified ingredients. It also includes stiff penalties for failing to comply and the threat of private “bounty-hunter” type lawsuits.

“This initiative, although well-meaning, hurts the small and medium sized food processors in our state,” said Dave Zepponi, President of the Northwest Food Processors Association. “The cost of compliance will be felt by consumers and will disproportionately impact small- to medium-sized businesses in our region, putting local jobs at risk.”

Food labeling requirements are primarily handled at the federal level because a patchwork of state laws creates redundant – and possibly conflicting – government regulation for local companies and the nation’s food supply. Concerned consumers already can be assured that they are buying non-genetically modified product by buying organic. This national certification requires products labeled as “organic” to be free of any genetically-modified ingredient.

“Supporters of this initiative want a ‘Washington-only’ food labeling standard that’s found nowhere else in the country. Consumers should be aware that compliance with this type of standard is very complex and expensive, and it reaches all the way up the supply chain,” said Zepponi. “It only makes sense to deal with this issue at the federal level, where a uniform approach to labeling products will provide a level playing field for the businesses in our state without putting Washington families at risk.”

“Food processing has been one of the few bright spots in the Northwest economy during the recession. Let’s not inadvertently harm those who are building our economic base with burdensome and unnecessary red tape.”

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  • Thomas

    Wouldn’t want that red tape to get in the way of knowing what we are eating by golly! Too much red tape – now that would be a disaster of epic proportions. 

  • Steve H

    I love it. The people against GMO labelling are likely staunch defenders of a “free market” economy. So, instead of allowing “free” access to the information that allows consumers to make informed decisions, they throw out the fear words like “very complex and expensive”. Then they suggest that we should let our dysfunctional federal government, with their incumbency re-election successes dependent on huge million dollar corporate contributions and expenditures, make our decisions for us by trying to undermine our only true democratic option – the Citizens Initiative process.

    One can only hope that the citizens of Washington State saw what agribusiness did to the Prop 37 effort in California and are smart enough to seek a true “free market” economy by giving consumers the tool they need to make informed decisions. That “tool”? It’s called “information”.

    Steve Hamm
    Nordland, WA

  • Syd

    It sounds and reeks of the same bull we were fed in California. You know everyone out their can afford organic, right? So organic has it right, we eat the way mother nature intended, however those farmers have to go the route of costly red tape-the cost of getting certified organic and labeling their foods as such. What’s the beef if multi-million dollar agri-farmers have to do a little labeling and in the process inform the public as to the garbage they are eating?

  • Kelly Thornton

    Jesus christ…excuse after excuse….Label the goddamned poison you sell fools!

  • Heidi Sebastion

    Yeah, found nowhere else in the country, but labeled in 60 countries.What a joke. I KNEW they would try to bring up the “the price of your food will go up” trick, but myself being a former territory manager for a big company who put THOUSANDS of new food products of the shelf myself, I KNOW that the food companies change labels like we change clothes. THe GMO label is just a little ink and it doesn’t cost more. Paul McCartney in England brought up the point that the food prices didn’t go up in England when they started labeling it. They are LYING to you. WAKE UP AMERICA. LABEL it. You have the RIGHT to know whats in your food. I hope Washington is smarter that California was. I will educate people wherever I can.

  • ann b

    just label it and let the consumer decide……

  • Missy.

    “Burdensome and unnecessary red tape” is nothing to the health consequences of artificial flavors, colors and genetically modified food. Wait until the cancer epidemic affects their families. People have the right to know what is in their food. They can make their own choice.

  • Julie Jensen

    So, you have a big money group defending small and medium farmers? Does anyone believe the large farms, or corporations, who are obviously funding the opposition, are worried about the well being of their weak competitors? They certainly don’t care about the well being of their consumers. The regulation of labeling needs to be nation-wide covering ALL ingredients and processes to be completely fair. It should be less restrictive to run an organic farm, growing natural product than one that produces Frankenstein food..

  • Rachel Ventura

    This needs to pass so the people in this country can start standing up against big businesses. we have a right to eat healthy and a right to know what we eat! please write your congress representative to show your support!

  • SandyLu

    Thank Monsanto and the other big agri-companies, they are genetically modifying plant production to produce more and to not give off seed, therefore cornering the market, because we won’t be able to grow our own! It is a sad world that we live in today and it’s only going to get worse, save your seeds!

  • Margie Carrell


  • Kcp

    Please Washington start the ball rolling in the right the direction. If you pass this others WILL follow and only then will America be a better place. Please Vote FOR I-522!!!!!!!!!