The Markets grocery company in Bellingham has endorsed Initiative 522, which seeks mandatory labeling of genetically-engineered food sold in Washington state.
Voters will decide in November if the measure becomes law.
“We are in favor of this initiative. We think people have the right to know what’s in their food, for dietary, religious or full disclosure reasons,” said Kevin Weatherill, The Markets’ president and CEO, in a press release. “People want to choose what they eat, and GMO product labeling will help provide that information.”
Genetically-engineered foods, also referred to as GMOs, are usually defined as seeds, plants, animals or fish that have had their DNA artificially altered by genes from other species.
Proponents of such labeling initiatives—similar efforts are underway in more than 20 states—say not enough information on GMOs has been made public and consumers have a right to know what is in their food.
Opponents say labeling would be an expensive and unnecessary requirement.
According to a ballot summary from Washington’s Secretary of State, I-522 “would require foods produced entirely or partly with genetic engineering, as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale in Washington, beginning in July 2015. The labeling requirement would apply generally to raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stock, with some exceptions, but would not require that specific genetically-engineered ingredients be identified. The measure would authorize state enforcement and civil penalties, and allow private enforcement actions.”
The Markets is among the first large-scale supermarket chains to get behind the measure. Several other Whatcom County businesses have backed I-522, including the Community Food Co-Op and Terra Organica (whose owner, Stephen Trinkaus, has received widespread media attention for placing “GMO Alert!” tags on products likely to contain genetically-engineered ingredients).
The Washington Association of Wheat Growers has formally opposed I-522, as has the Association of Washington Business.
I-522 has similarities to a California measure, Proposition 37, which was rejected by voters in the state in 2012.