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State voters to decide on GMO-labeling initiative

<< Jonny Boy >>

State voters will decide on the fate of an initiative that would require labeling of genetically modified food products. 

Initiative 522 would require food products to bear a label informing the consumer if they contain any genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The public signature-gathering campaign for the bill was successful, and while it allowed the Washington state Legislature an opportunity to decide its fate, its language mandated that if lawmakers took no action, the initiative would automatically move to a public vote in November.

While lawmakers in both houses did hold committee hearings, no action was taken.

Campaign promoters say the measure would be a boon to the region’s farmers who are concerned about foreign markets where labeling of GMO products is required. 

“Ensuring that we do have labels—particularly for crops like wheat, which is currently not genetically engineered but could be in the future—could help our trade export market,” said Elizabeth Larter with the “Yes on 522” campaign.

The GMO wheat issue is currently of special concern to Washington wheat growers after unapproved experimental strains of GMO wheat were found growing in Oregon. 

That discovery focused international attention on U.S. exports of wheat, and Japan announced it would suspend some wheat imports from the Pacific Northwest.

Larter says 64 countries worldwide require GMO labeling. 

In the U.S., Maine and Connecticut legislatures have passed GMO labeling, but enacting the law is contingent on a certain number of other states following suit.

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