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The scary fight for GE labeling

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Vote Now!This Halloween, voters in Washington state are finding their airwaves and mailboxes filled with more tricks than treats.

In the final days before next Tuesday's vote, pesticide corporations and Big Food companies are spreading scary misinformation in their bid to block GE labeling in the state. As California’s Proposition 37 did last year, Washington’s I-522 threatens to expose the GE industry’s dirty little secret: that GE crops drive up pesticide use. So as next week's vote approaches, it’s no surprise that industry is hiding behind a mask.

This past Monday, Monsanto donated another $500,000 to the fight, bringing its total to over $5 million to oppose labeling. They are not alone.

Other members of the “Big 6” have been funneling large contributions to the anti-labeling fight — more than any initiative in Washington history. And some Big Food companies are close behind (including, unfortunately, two of the three largest candy snack manufacturers — Nestle and Hershey’s). Together, these companies are running over 459 ad spots on one Seattle TV station alone in the remaining days.

Instead of scaring Washingtonians, these companies should honor choice. People want to know if their candy bar, candied apple or cookies are made with GE corn and soy.  Over 60 countries around the world already support the right to know what’s in our food and how it’s grown. So why not Washington?

Boo! Monsanto & Co’s talking points

In both California and Washington, opponents of labeling have trotted out the same old anti-labeling arguments. It’s worth dispelling them once more:

  • Changing labels is business as usual. Companies change labels often, and as independent research notes, GE labeling shouldn’t cost companies more. From cereal boxes to soup cans, companies change labels all the time without those changes affecting cost.
  • The law is written for Washington. A diverse group of I-522 drafters worked to ensure that the law will support farmers and eaters alike and remain consistent with global standards. As a result only things that are genetically engineered themselves or contain genetically engineered ingredients (such as corn chips, soft drinks and cereals) would likely be labeled.
  • There’s no incentive to sue companies. Contrary to industry claims, there’s little reason to sue, since damages can’t easily be collected. But consumers and allied groups can legally challenge companies that fail to label as required.

Election Day may prove sweeter, in Washington and beyond, if we can cut through industry misinformation.

Take action » Help pass I-522 by reaching out to Washington voters and ensuring they have the facts! A win for GE labeling in Washington state next week will pave the way for GE labeling across the country — and help move us off the GE/pesticide treadmill.

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