Wheat Growers Oppose Mandatory GM Labeling
On behalf of more than 1,800 members, the Washington Association of Wheat Growers formally opposes Initiative 522 in it’s entirety.
Current laws and regulations administered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) require food labeling to be truthful and not misleading.
I-522 does not meet this criteria. Requiring mandatory labeling of foods produced through genetic modification that are indistinguishable from foods produced through traditional methods would mislead consumers by falsely implying differences where none exist.
Food labeling requirements should be, and have always been science-based to give consumers meaningful information about the foods they buy and eat. Under current statutes and regulations of the FDA and USDA, changes to foods require labeling only if the product has been significantly changed nutritionally or if there have been changes in other health-related characteristics of the food (allergenicity, toxicity, or composition). Mandatory, state-based GMO labeling would also risk diverting attention from other important safety and nutritional information.
I-522 is simply bad policy.
“This initiative is full of contradictory rules,” said WAWG Past President and State Legislation committee chairman, Eric Maier. “A food made of genetically modified ingredients would require labeling when sold in grocery stores, but not in restaurants or delis. That just doesn’t make sense.” Maier grows wheat near Ritzville, Wash., the heart of dryland wheat country. Maier also believes the exemption for alcohol, but not other drinks, would mislead consumers. The proposed mandatory labeling law will not provide any useful information, and U.S. policy on food labeling is that it should provide meaningful information about health or safety.
For the record, there is no genetically modified wheat in commercial production in Washington State or elsewhere in the United States. We anticipate the introduction of GM wheat is a least a decade away. The industry is pursuing genetic modification to grow more and better wheat with less impact on the environment, such as reducing chemical usage. Washington State University researchers are also looking for ways to enhance wheat through genetic modification to allow those with wheat intolerance or celiac disease to eat wheat.
The Washington Association of Wheat Growers (WAWG) is a grassroots organization representing farmers who support the pursuit of new technologies, including genetic modification, to solve pressing environmental and production problems. The safety and quality of our products is our No. 1 priority.
Some have tried to mislead the public claiming that export market disruption will be avoided with the passage of I-522. This initiative has nothing to do with export markets. It is about creating an unnecessary and expensive regulatory system that will ultimately hit Washington consumers in the pocketbook.
The initiative is about labeling food products in Washington. Export markets already import genetically modified products such as corn and soybeans. Others prefer buying non-GM products. Some markets buy both. Export markets don’t make purchase decisions based on whether Washington has a labeling law or not.
Opponents of genetic modification are bringing up the issue of wheat exports to push an anti-technology agenda by creating fear of lost markets for a product that doesn’t yet exist and won’t for years. For many export markets, GMOs are not even a discussion point. Some may have expressed a concern regarding genetic modification, but even those import both GM and non-GM commodities such as corn, soybeans, canola and papayas.
The FDA and USDA currently provide clear guidelines for voluntary labels to aid consumers who make a personal decision not to consume food made from genetically modified ingredients. The FDA allows producers to label their products as ‘GM Free’ if the claim is accurate. The USDA runs the National Organic Program, a certification which allows producers to label products as ‘Certified Organic’ if they follow certain production standards. Foods with these labels by definition cannot contain any genetically modified material. Existing regulations provide consumers with information and ample ability to choose not to purchase foods that have been genetically modified.
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