Editor’s Note: This article is reposted from the Cooper Point Journal, October 24, 2013 issue. Visit the site for more information about Initiative 522.
Initiative Measure Number 522 (I-522) is an initiative proposed in the General Election on Nov. 5. The initiative would require “most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stocks if produced using genetic engineering, as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale”, according to the Washington State voters guide.
Foods that would not be labeled would be those that are not genetically engineered, certified organic foods, alcoholic beverages, food served in restaurants, medical food, food derived from animals that were not genetically engineered (“regardless of whether the animal has been fed any genetically engineered food”, according to the voters pamphlet), and processed foods produced using genetically engineered processing aids and enzymes (“Processed foods containing small amounts of genetically engineered materials would be exempt until July 1, 2019”, according to the voters pamphlet).
If 1-522 is passed, foods that are genetically engineered must be clearly labeled as “genetically engineered”. Additionally, it would also allow Washington State Department of Agriculture to categorize unlabeled genetically engineered foods as mislabeled, and pull the foods from shelves.
The Washington State Office of Financial Management has predicted that the total cost of enacting I-522 would be just over three million dollars, with the cost spreading out between 2013 and 2019.
The initiative defines genetically engineered foods as foods that have been genetically altered through “the direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles” and the fusion of different cells that do not belong to the same taxonomic family that does not occur naturally.
The Washington State Academy of Sciences, a third-party organization that strives towards unbiased scientific research, finds that there is no statistically significant long- term health risks from genetically engineered or modified foods, but admits that most of the tests were short-term tests and did not primarily focus on the potential toxicology of genetically engineered or modified foods.