By Bruce A. Smith
In next month’s election, Washington voters will decide on a state wide initiative that if food products contain Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) then the producers will be required to indicate that on the labels.
On a political level, this is the latest battle in the cultural war that pits liberal forces seeking a greater good for society against those desiring less government intrusion in their lives.
The progressives claim that a hands-off policy simply allows agricultural giants like Monsanto to impose unhealthy foods into the American diet in an effort to enhance profits. The conservatives counter that the government should not increase its monitoring or control of food production.
The GMO initiative is known as I-522 and a “Yes” vote will mean that you support labeling foods that contain GMOs, and a “No” vote will mean that you seek to maintain the status quo.
Claudia Branham is a frequent contributor and commentator at the Mountain News and she has offered her opinions on I-522. I offer a counter position. Ms. Branham says she plans to vote “No” on I-522 and I will be voting “Yes.”
Here is the email exchange between Claudia and myself this week on the issue:
Claudia’s commentary on GMOs:
While I would like to see simple GMO labeling on food products, after reading the entire voter’s pamphlet, I have come to the conclusion that I-522 is a badly written measure. For example the measure provides that its requirements are to be implemented and enforced by the state Department of Health instead of the state Department of Agriculture, and would authorize the Department of Health to assess a civil penalty of up to one thousand dollars per day for each violation.
Anything to do with our food supply should stay with the Department of Agriculture, not add employees and cost to the Department of Health to police this, which it would have to do.
It also states that separately, after giving 60 days notice, any private person could bring an action in Superior Court to enjoin a person violating the measure, and potentially recover coasts and attorney fees for the action.
All we need is a blatant excuse for unscrupulous individuals to find an unscrupulous attorney to bring actions and collect mega bucks for both the individual and the attorney.
So I have decided to vote no on I-522 If anyone has another take on it with something that I don’t know from reading the pamphlet, please let me know and I will send it on.
I have collected a number of pro and cons before the pamphlet came out, however, I lost a bunch of my emails by hitting the wrong link, yuk, I have done that before and could only retrieve and save a portion of them.
Your thoughts, Claudia, have triggered some of my own on I-522. To begin, at its most fundamental level, 522 is about shaping what kinds of foods our neighbors will eat – not what we will individually. Regardless of the vote, folks like me and you who are exceptionally health conscious will still decide what is best for us to eat.
In essence, I-522 will not effect my shopping and cooking habits one iota, except when I eat out in the world at a restaurant or cafeteria.
At home, I eat a plant-based diet with lots of leafy greens, rice and beans. I already avoid GMO foods like the plague that they are, as I believe the data that states GMO corn, with its Bt bacteria already imbedded in its kernels, will rupture my gut; and GMO soy isn’t much better as “Round-up Ready” foods are crippled by their inability to uptake helpful minerals from the soils they grow in.
As a result, I shop increasingly at food co-ops and buy only organic foods that are GMO-free.
As a Nikken health product vendor, I suspect that you do as well.
Since 522 will decide what other people eat, it will really determine what kinds of health issues their diets will trigger. Hence, the issue of GMO labeling becomes primarily one of public health.
On a personal level, I see no real difference between monitoring food labels by the Department of Agriculture or the Department of Health. I am sure the infrastructures will be similar and vary mostly on the dedication of the individuals doing the work.
However, the 522 initiative raises another important question; perhaps even a critical one – why doesn’t Monsanto want to advertise its products? Isn’t Monsanto proud of its GMO technology? Why doesn’t it become a marketing advantage to tout GMO foods? Why do they need to obfuscate the chemical structure of their food products, unless they really are less nutritious?
PS: Thanks for your views on the GMO bill, Claudia. May I reprint it on the Mountain News?
Certainly you may print it on the Mountain News. I am still looking at both sides and hope I make the right choice on my ballot.
Addendum, October 18, 2013, 7:30 pm
Scientific Analysis of GMO products, Bruce A. Smith
Here’s what I understand to be the problems with GMO food, or at least with two specific examples: corn and soy, which are almost all GMO–grown these days in the United States.
GMO corn is usually genetically modified to host new bacteria in its kernels, bacteria that are known as Bt, a short-hand version of its scientific name of Bacillus thuringiensis.
Bt occurs naturally in nature, but not in corn. In nature, Bt is a natural bug repellent and destroyes insects that feed on it by releasing toxins in the gut of the insect that eat away at the lining of the critter’s intestines, making them burst. The insect then dies from malnutrition and dehydration.
Bt corn is a GMO product that has Bt bacteria inserted into the corn and it grows there as the corn develops. This gives the corn a “natural” immunity to predatory insects that may want to feed on the corn. Since there is less insect predation, the farmers can increase their corn yeild.
Bt corn is now widespread in American food, and virtually all corn products are made with Bt corn, such as corn flakes, corn chips, corn syrup, and corn fructose. The later products are ubiquitous in American foods as they are used as “natural’ sweeteners.
As a result, lots of folks are eating lots of Bt corn. Additionally, they are introducing copious amounts of Bt into their own intestines. It is believed that the Bt will act on the linings of human digestive organs the same way they do on insects. Thus, the Bt corn will cause leisions and ruptures in the human G-I system, leading to G-I disorders, such as colitis, Irritated Bowel Syndrome (IBS), diverticulitis and Krone’s disease – illnesses that are all on the rise in the United States.
As for soy, it is a different but similar story. GMO soy, which dominates the soy fields of America, is bred with a tolerance for Round-Up herbicide. The GMO soy becomes chemically able to repeal the effects of the Round-Up that is sprayed on its fields. Thus the weeds die and the soy grows.
However, the chemical alterrations in the soy also make it less able to absorb nutrients from the soil. As a result, the soy is not as nutritiously robust as it should be. This is primarliy a problem with animals like hogs and cows that usually eat soy. The animals then become nutrient-deficient and grow sick, sterile or deformed. Increasing numbers of farmers are reportedly switching back to non-GMO soy to save their herds.
The same process is believed to unfold inside humans who consume GMO soy.
For those folks who would like to avoid these bio-chem travesties, I understand that any food product labeled “Organic” must be free of GMO crops. To achieve this, I shop almost exclusively in Trader’s Joe, food co-ops, and in the “Organic” section of Fred Meyer, which has a stellar array of organic products at a fair price.
I acknowledge that this addendum is free of any scientific corroboration, references and the like. I will correct those deficiences in the near future.
Addendum II, Oct. 20. 5 pm. BAS.
The following information comes from Victoria Harper, of Yelm:
Bruce: Perhaps this except from ballotpedia.org gives the most concise
explanation for voters re: I-522. — V
Scientific consensus has consistently ruled that genetically modified
foods are safe for human consumption. Some countries, however, have banned their sales citing a lack of research done by independent institutions, rather than the companies themselves.
GMO labeling is mandated in 64 countries, including the European Union nations, Australia, China, Japan, Brazil and India.
Proponents of GMO labeling in the United States are focusing their campaigns not on the safety of GMOs, but on transparency in the food system. In the United States a large proportion of commodity crops are genetically engineered: 97% of the nation’s sugar beets, 93% of the soybeans, 90% of the cotton and 90% of the feed corn, according to the 2013 figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 
March Against Monsanto (MAM) organized protests in fifty-two countries and in over four-hundred cities to happen on October 12, 2013. MAM describes their goal as “informing the public, calling into question long-term health risks of genetically modified foods and demanding the GMO products be labeled so that consumers can make informed decisions.”
Over 2,000 people participated in a similar march in Seattle on May 25, 2013. MAM and news sources estimate the upcoming march in Seattle to be larger due to Initiative 522.
Addendum III, October 21, 1 pm, BAS
A little humor:
Label GMO Disco (parody of Village People “YMCA”) – YouTube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ho2H7b1tUgQ&feature=youtu.be