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I-522 isn’t the solution to food labeling questions

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Word Nerd by Laura Gjovaag

I’m not a big fan of initiative 522.

I like the idea of knowing what’s in my food. I like the idea of being able to pick my food based on what ingredients I find good, whether for health reasons or because I’m paranoid. I like the idea of having that choice.

And I’m certainly not a big fan of genetically modified organisms that are pushed by certain corporations.

However, I don’t think a label that says “This has GMO ingredients” is going to be useful at all to me. In fact, I think it’ll end up being counter-productive in the eventual goal of knowing exactly what’s in my food.

I’ve read the text of I-522 and I’ve read both the pro and con websites. When it gets right down to it, I don’t agree that this is a good first step as the supporters say. I think it’s a bit of a mess, with too many exceptions and not enough information for the end consumer.

In my ideal world, consumers would have all the information available if they want it. The way to accomplish that would be to use an online database and QR codes on packaging.

A QR code is the almost checkerboard square that can be seen on a lot of products. The codes can be read by a smartphone, which can translate them into an internet address.

With a QR code that leads to a website about the product and the usual serial numbers printed on the package, a consumer could learn a lot more about a food product than just whether or not it contains certain types of GMO ingredients.

The website could tell customers where the ingredients are from, right down to the farm, if there’s a recall on any of the products and further nutritional data.

What’s interesting is that the technology is already almost in place to make this happen. It would not take much more effort to make it a reality than the effort involved in adding new GMO labeling requirements.

I want to know a lot more about my food, and I don’t think 522 is going to do anything but muddy the waters. I’ll be holding out for more comprehensive labeling, not a poorly thought out stopgap.

Comments

washington102 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Like you said, I'd rather see Bt Corn listed in my ingredients (if they can patent it because it's unique, than it should have a unique name) then "contains GMO" on the front of the package. But where I disagree, is that I think it is a good first step for consumer awareness, education and empowerment.

I'm not anti-GMO. I think products should be evaluated on a product-by-product basis. I only wish the companies involved would open their products up to be evaluated by independent researchers who could conduct thorough long-term studies on their safety. Six month studies done by the company who is manufacturing the product (current requirement from the FDA) is not adequate. Using the public for long-term testing without their awareness and consent seems wrong to me.

So while the "contains GMO" label is not detailed. It doesn't at least give consumers the right to consent on a broad level.

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washington102 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I posted earlier, but forgot to mention this. Another reason why I support I-522 even though I don't think it's ideal, is that the minor changes in infrastructure will pave the way for more educational labeling.

For instance, you know how there was a recent study done by Washington State Academy of Sciences (WSAS), that said labeling would increase costs to consumers (of unknown amount). Here's the major takeaway:

"The group concluded that the cost of labeling itself will be negligible, but that food producers are likely to incur extra expenses from having to separate genetically engineered ingredients from other foods."

Again, I think that's good. Any food producers that trade with the 64 other countries who have labeling laws (Japan, China, Mexico, India, Russia, Brazil, Great Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, etc..) already do this.

With more and more new GE/GMO products waiting to hit the market, we should have a system in place to keep them separate. Bt Corn is not Corn if a company can patent the seed and sue farmers for patent infringement if it spreads into their fields. Right?

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