Washington Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Measure, Initiative 522 (2013)

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Washington Initiative 522, also known as the "Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Measure", is an Initiative to the Legislature on the ballot in Washington that will be decided in the general election on November 5, 2013.[1]

The initiative effort would require GMO labeling on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways.

Text of measure

Ballot text

The following is the ballot text on file with the Washington Secretary of State's office and provided by the initiative's supporters:[2]

Initiative Measure No. 522 concerns labeling of genetically-engineered foods.

This measure would require most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stocks, if produced using genetic engineering as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ][3]

Summary

The following is the ballot measure summary of the proposal:

"This measure would require foods produced entirely or partly with genetic engineering, as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale in Washington, beginning in July 2015. The labeling requirement would apply generally to raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stock, with some exceptions, but would not require that specific genetically-engineered ingredients be identified. The measure would authorize state enforcement and civil penalties, and allow private enforcement actions."[4]

Support

The following is information obtained from the supporting side of the measure:

  • According to initiative sponsor Chris McManus, "Yes, you can steer clear of certain items, but unless you know that they're there, how do you know to steer clear of them? Putting a label on the front of that just informs the consumer a little bit more about what they're buying."[5]

Opposition

The following is information obtained from the opposing side of the measure:

  • According to Heather Hansen, executive director of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, "We think this is really intended to be a scare tactic, to ultimately scare people away from technology. And it's not providing any meaningful information."[5]

Path to the ballot

I-522 signature checker at the Washington Secretary of State's office

The supporting group, according to reports, stated that it had reached its goal of approximately 320,000 signatures in hopes of presenting it to the Washington Legislature. The group stated that they would submit signatures to the Washington Secretary of State's office a day before the January 4, 2013 deadline. Ballotpedia contacted the Washington Secretary of State's office on January 3, 2013 at 1 p.m. PST, where it was confirmed that supporters had submitted signatures. In an e-mail to Ballotpedia, Kay Ramsay of the Washington Secretary of State's Elections office stated that supporters of Initiative 522 had submitted about 19,000 petitions with about 350,000 signatures on them on January 3. A few more petitions were also turned in on January 4, 2013.

On February 1, 2013, the Washington Secretary of State's office reported that enough signatures were obtained to place the measure before legislature. Out of the random sample of 10,762 signatures for I-522, 9,503 were valid and 1,241 were invalid, while there were 18 pairs of duplicate signatures.[6][7]

A minimum of about 241,000 signatures were required to advance the proposal to the lawmaking body. If the legislature chooses not to adopt the law, the measure would then appear on the ballot.[1]

The 2013 state legislative session ended on April 28, 2013, with no resolution from the legislature. The measure will now go before voters in the 2013 general election.

Similar measures

In 2012, California voters pulled their levers on Proposition 37, a measure that ultimately lead to the requirement of having labels on raw or processed food offered for sale to consumers if the food is made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways.

See also

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