Proponents, Opponents Gear Up For I-522 Debate

By Steve Jackson

The debate over labeling genetically modified foods is starting to heat up in Washington state. 

Genetically modified foods use a genetice piece of another plant or animal to modify the quality of the food or to make it easier for a grower to produce. But there are some who worry abou the possible ill health effects such products may have. 

In an effort to inform consumers, a Washington state initiative calls for genetically modified foods to be labeled as such. Proponents have been working on the issue for sometime now, and the 'No on Initiative 522' campaign is now gearing up for the debate.

Dan Newhouse is a former head of the Washington State Agricultural Department. He feels there is already a good option for forlks who want to avoid foods that have been genetically engineered.

Dan Newhouse: "They can by choosing organic foods where they buy their groceries and be assured there are no genetically engineered products in that." 

But I-533 proponent Elizabeth Larter says for many state residents, organic isn't a viable option. 

Elizabeth Larter: "Every consumer should have a right to know what's in their food, and unfortunately, not every Washington shopper can afford to buy organic, so this labeling does provide every Washington shopper to make an informed decision when they go to the grocery store." 

Another issue for the No campaign is what Newhouse says is a loophole in the intiative wording. 

Dan Newhouse: "You bought a pizza at your local grocery store, it would have to be labeled, but if you bought it at a pizzeria or a grocery store, it wouldn't." 

Larter explains the reasoning behind that apparent shortcoming. 

Elizabeth Larter: "In your grocery store, in the freezer section where you get your frozen pizza, it has to list all that information, and the local pizzeria does not. I-522 is the same thing - it labels it in the grocery store and not the restaurant. And that is confirming to standards, so we are not more strict than any other countries that are labeling genetically modified foods." 

I-522 opponents also say while milk, cheese and other dairy products would not be required to be labeled, that soy milk would be. Proponent Larter says that's because much of the soy milk produced in the U.S. comes from genetically modified soy beans, while cows are not genetically engineered. 
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