Senator Maralyn Chase says “Yes” to GMO labeling

News from Washington State

• The focus of most people in favor of labeling genetically engineered food is the need to know what they are putting in their bodies and feeding their children.

I get that. In this day and age, we count every calorie and every gram of fat. People want to know what they are eating.

That is the biggest part of the motivation behind Initiative 522, which will appear on the November ballot in Washington State. If approved, it will require that our state establish a system for labeling genetically engineered food.

I, too, am concerned about the long-term health impacts of consuming genetically engineered food, but my primary concern today about genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, is one even more universal than calorie counting. My primary concern is about the economy.

Many of our trading partners, specifically those in the European Union and Pacific Rim, have banned the importation of unlabeled genetically modified foods. All told, more than 60 countries now refuse to import such products without proper labeling.

I would prefer that we had a federal labeling system in place, but I don’t have to tell you that waiting for the Feds to act on anything takes more time than we have. Instead, we have to protect the health of our communities by developing our own system now.

Connecticut became the first state to pass a law requiring such labeling, but the law will not be enacted until neighboring states follow suit. Fortunately, similar bills are indeed advancing through other legislatures throughout New England.

Washington is still the only state where labeling is currently on the ballot this fall – so we will be letting our voters decide if they want genetically engineered foods to be labeled. Success in Washington will not only help build national momentum and engage more Americans in the effort, but it will also help lay the groundwork for future campaigns across the nation.

Senator Maralyn Chase, Washington State Senate Democratic Caucus, www.senatedemocrats.wa.gov/senators/chase/

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