Association of Washington Business opposes Initiative 522

OLYMPIA — The Association of Washington Business, Washington state’s largest statewide business association, opposes Initiative 522, a proposal that it said would require extra labeling of genetically engineered foods and would open up new avenues for frivolous lawsuits.

AWB’s board of directors, representing more than 8,000 small, medium and large businesses, voted unanimously last week to oppose I-522, which will appear on the November ballot.

The proposal would create a costly burden for family farmers, food producers, grocers and retailers to create separate systems to grow, process, transport and sell food and beverages sold in Washington.

Last year, voters in California rejected a nearly identical proposal, Proposition 37, which would have increased food costs for the average family by $400 per year.

“I-522 would not make our food any safer, but it would make food more expensive,” said Gary Chandler, AWB’s vice president for government affairs. “This initiative would confuse consumers for no good reason and put our state at a competitive disadvantage.”

Humans have modified wild plants and animals into modern crops and livestock for thousands of years. Foods produced using biotechnology, the latest advance in this timeless practice, are among the most reviewed, studied and scrutinized products in the world. Leading medical and scientific organizations, including the American Medical Association, agree that genetically engineered foods are no different than conventional foods.

Alex McGregor, president of the family-owned McGregor Company, a Colfax-based agricultural supply firm, said bioengineering is a crucial part of feeding a growing and hungry world population. Modern plant science produces an ever-increasing food supply while conserving water and preserving soil.

New labels required under I-522 would create a false impression that thousands of food products have suddenly become different or unhealthy, McGregor said, even when extensive testing has demonstrated their safety.

“I grew up as a kid herding sheep on the range and I never did see a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but if I had, it would have looked a lot like I-522,” said McGregor. “When there is such a pressing need to increase production in a safe and responsible way, and when so much can be gained from the wise use of science, it would just be folly to let misconceptions, not science and good judgment, dictate the future of agriculture. Let’s not be following wolves in sheep’s clothing here. Let’s focus on sound science.”

AWB stated I-522 would also authorize a new class of frivolous lawsuits, allowing unscrupulous trial lawyers or any private citizen to sue farmers, food producers or store owners over the wording on food labels.

“I-522 is bad policy,” said Chandler. “The organic seal and voluntary ‘non-GM’ labels already provide a choice for consumers. I-522 is not necessary and would only drive up the cost of food at a time when consumers can least afford another price increase.”


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