In news out earlier this week, food and farming leaders from the Evergreen State are taking up the issue of labeling genetically engineered foods on the state’s ballot. Despite the fact that federal and state governments have largely either ignored or assiduously avoided the issue, Washington joins California in taking the matter directly to the voters.
This should be no surprise, as ballot initiatives have proven the last resort when other policy arenas fail to take up or take action on public issues.The Food and Drug Agency (FDA) has failed to add labeling to everyday grocery products, despite repeated requests by millions of Americans. Earlier this year, over 500 organizations across the country in the Just Label It coalition, including PAN, sent a million petition signatures to FDA. Their response? “Don’t call us, we’ll call you,” reports Grist’s Tom Laskawy.
After more than 19 state legislatures rejected measures mothers, farmers and farmworkers had no other recourse than to take the issue to the ballot. And they are in good standing. A majority of Americans support labeling in general and a statewide poll out this week by the Los Angeles Times, demonstrates that more than 60% of Californians support labeling.
All eyes are on California. The stakes are high as labeling in the populous state with the ninth largest economy in the world promises to shift the entire marketplace. That’s why the opposition to the “Right to Know” Proposition 37, funded largely by the “Big 6” GE seed/pesticide corporations, is pumping millions more into PR efforts in the weeks leading up to the election. California's precedent-setting potential is likely also why other states are following suit.
"Don't make any mistake, this is chemical companies" opposing labeling, said Trudy Bialic, director of public affairs at Seattle-based PCC Natural Markets and one of the lead groups taking up the measure in Washington. "It's the same people who brought us Agent Orange, DDT and PCBs, and they're saying now, 'Trust us with your food.'"
As PAN’s senior scientist Marcia Ishii-Eiteman points out on Civil Eats, the public is now seeing through industry’s “dirty little secret,” given new information out from scientists in the Evergreen State.
In a report out this week drawn from USDA data, Washington State’s Chuck Benbrook documents the increased pesticide use as a result of GE crops. The treadmill of weed and insect resistance, and more pesticide use, presents challenges for farmers, rural communities and consumers alike. Benbrook had this to say: "Things are getting worse, fast. In order to deal with rapidly spreading resistant weeds, farmers are being forced to expand use of older, higher-risk herbicides."
But if both California and Washington state used their purchasing power to push pause on the pesticide treadmill, what then?