According to the official ballot measure summary:
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.
The Washington legislature failed to act on this item, so it will be presented to voters on the November 5, 2013 general election ballot.
Let them eat yellowcake! But let no force in the universe require us to tell them what we used as ingredients. (Hint: It rhymes with spit.)
–Yellowcake Producers of Abyss Hidden Crevice Ranch
I live in Portland, Oregon, so I’m a poor son of a bitch getting blasted by big money advertising in regards to this issue. That’s how it pierced my filter bubble. But more on that later.
We common folk tend to think of the United States of America as a “democracy.” But technically it’s not. It’s a “republic.” Does that confuse you? Try to think back to the words of the Pledge of Allegiance which you repeated by rote about 2,400 times during your schoolin’.
… to the Republic for which it stands …
So, what’s a republic? It means powers of government are reserved to the public as opposed to private entities like royalty or dictators. But, more specifically, the United States is a representative democracy. Under this system the public does not generally have direct access to governance. Those functions are normally performed by representatives elected by the public.
Another word for public is “mob.” Ex: “Things would quickly go to shit if we had mob rule.” Thus, theoretically, the representative process is somehow assumed to be better.
The initiative process is an end-around those elected representatives. It’s a method of the public having direct say in the legislative process. It cuts out the middleman, like Congress, which currently has a reported approval rating of about five percent. Hell, I think even I can do better than that. Fools.
The initiative process can exist at the city and state level. Amazingly, it does not exist in all cities nor in all states.
Fun Abyss Fact
Only 24 states (and the District of Columbia) currently support the citizen initiative process.
One thing the framers of our system of government left out? Yep, the initiative process at the Federal level.
Fun Abyss Fact
There is no citizen initiative process at the Federal level. None. Goose egg. Zip. Nada. Bupkis.
Think it’s a good idea to force Congress to participate in the same health plan as the people they govern? Do you think they are paid too much? Would term limits or campaign finance reform be a good idea? By definition none of them would ever in good conscience (oxymoron) vote on such things due to an immense conflict of interest.
If there was such a thing as a Federal citizen’s initiative process, though, perhaps the people of this great nation might have the gumption and the political will to get ‘r done. Ya think? How’s that five percent approval rating working out for ya?
How might things be different if we citizens had something like that at our disposal? Sure, it would be perverted by corporations, big money and special interests, but it still might be possible accomplish something that Congress never would.
There is an actual effort underway to establish a national initiative. It’s a grand idea. The only problem? It would have to be approved by Congress. Game over.
Abyss Fun Fact*
They are currently working on a potato that will also grow round patty-shaped beef-based animal protein. When the fully mature plant is microwaved it will result in a hamburger and french fries, ready for condiment assembly and bunning for fast, efficient presentation to the customer. They’ll cost about one penny each and will be sold for $2.99. That’s a real time saver!
*This one time the fun fact is based on my fertile imagination.
So how is the initiative process working in Washington with our old friend I-522?
According to the TV commercials a woman who is a farmer strongly opposes I-522. She repeats all of the standard talking points. But my take? “I think it’ll cost us money so we hates it.” Yup, yup. That’s politics.
Who supports I-522? Food activists, food co-ops, natural stores like Whole Foods Market, the Organic Consumers Association (who have called for a boycott of Safeway stores), and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps (largest single donor). (Source: Wikipedia.)
Who opposes I-522? Large chemical corporations, Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, Northwest Food Processors, Washington Association of Wheat Growers and the Washington State Farm Bureau. (Source: Wikipedia.)
Public records of initiative donations are listed at the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission website. The largest contributors so far are Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer with $4.6 and $3.2 million in opposition, approaching the previous state record against a state-wide initiative. Dr Bronner’s Magic Soaps is the largest single contributor in support, with a total of $1.5 million.
Reportedly most of the money donated regarding I-522 is the dreaded “out of state” variety.
Monsanto works on many fronts to oppose food labeling laws. No big secret there. Hell, it almost seems like they’d oppose a label that said, “This is food.” (I think their lawyers advised them they can’t use that phrase.) Reportedly they hope to achieve a worldwide ban on GMO labeling via something called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). But that’s a whole other can of genetically engineered super worms.
It makes me wonder. If Monsanto is so opposed to labeling, why might that be? Using logical deduction I reason: Because we might not like what they’d say?
What are the other arguments against I-522?
- “Costly.” How? For foods already labeled you add a bit of text. For foods not currently labeled, you add a label and pass the cost on to the consumer.
- “Misleading.” Does the food contain GMO? This seems to be knowable information. It’s binary. True/false. I agree the meaning of GMO must be defined. Pick a definition, just like we do for organic, fat free, etc. and stick with it. Create a standard and tell the truth.
- “First of it’s kind.” Irrelevant. By this logic humans wouldn’t do anything. Ever. This is a logical fallacy red herring.
- “Requires special relabeling.” No, the law doesn’t. It merely requires certain labels in the state of Washington. There is no requirement that food producers use one label in Washington and different labels everywhere else. This decision is left up to the food producer. They could, for example, easily one-size-fits-all labeling and solve all organizational problems in one fell swoop. There is nothing in the initiative that prevents this. The fact that they don’t like it does not constitute a “requirement.”
- “Sworn statements.” Just tell the truth and you’ll have no problems.
- “Confusing.” No system is perfect. But that doesn’t mean you do nothing at all. Create a standard, even if imperfect. It’s better than nothing.
We need to be nice to our farmers. After all, they make our food and that’s important. We want them to be profitable. To that end perhaps a discussion about big farming corporations would be more suitable? Anyway, an initiative like I-522 isn’t about punishing farmers or increasing their costs. It’s about human beings having a basic right to know what is in their food.
Labeling laws in our country are already so weak as to be practically meaningless. If you want to turn your stomach look up a list of things food producers are allow to glom together under the heading “natural flavors.” (Hint: I flush natural flavors almost every day of my life.)
The truth is that telling the truth about what is in food won’t actually kill anyone. It will, perhaps for the first time in centuries, allow people to know what they are putting in their mouths.