I-522: How much information do you want about your food?

Over the past few weeks the, airwaves have been flooded with barely informative commercials both for and against Initiative-522; as it usually happens with controversial legislation that is opposed by large corporations, it becomes difficult to figure out what is actually going on. As a natural/organic food junkie, I thought that I would most likely vote in favor of the initiative, but with a little more research I realized… I will definitely vote for the initiative, and I would like to encourage others to do the same.  

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), agricultural biotechnology is “a range of tools, including traditional breeding techniques,that alter living organisms, or parts of organisms, to make or modify products.

While bio-company research claims that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are perfectly safe, other research indicates that the potential risks, though not yet proven, could be detrimental, and that GMOs should be completely avoided. Science has yet to completely understand the gene and the full effects of modifying them is still unknown and unpredictable.  Based on this, some countries in Europe have outlawed bioengineered food altogether.  I-522, however, simply allows consumers to decide whether the risks are worth the rewards and asks farmers to label foods  that contain genetically engineered seeds and animals.

The main argument of those who oppose I-522 is the cost, and they criticize supporters for claiming that there will be none.  Obviously it won’t cost “nothing;” new state regulations are never free; there will be enforcement costs and the cost of new packaging. However,  many fear the real costs will arise when consumers, given the opportunity to choose between GMO and non-GMO products, will, en masse choose to buy non-GMOs. This will force farmers to stop producing GMO products, or replace genetically engineered ingredients with organic ones; they would then stop buying genetically engineered growing products produced by the massive bio engineering companies that are backing the opposition to this legislation.

This is a far-fetched consequence,  given the continuing success of pseudo foods like McDonald’s McNuggets and McRibs, and almost anything from Taco Bell. It is based on an unsupported theory that the majority of American consumers develop their diet around the integrity of a product’s ingredients. But isn’t that kind of the point?  Those who do prefer the healthier ingredients they will be given the option of knowing what they are buying , and everyone else will can continue to eat GMOs with the same enthusiasm that they fought for the survival of Twinkies.

The real problem with the law is that it is not as comprehensive as perhaps it could be: while animal products from genetically modified animals will be labeled, products from animals that were fed GMO foods will not. This exempts a laundry list of foods. Even so, it is a start.