Should Initiative 522 matter to my family?

lady reading ingredients on food label

GMOs are a hot topic right now because of the Washington state vote on Initiative 522, the People's Initiative to Label Genetically Engineered Foods. You'll see it on the November 2013 ballot.

What are GMOs anyway?

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) are genetically engineered plants or animals with foreign DNA added artificially in a lab to make them produce unnatural compounds. Genetically engineered foods cannot occur in nature.

Genetically engineered (GE) foods in the U.S. do not have to be labeled, so there is a good chance your family is eating GE foods without knowing it. The most common GE foods today include sweet corn, zucchini and papaya, and processed foods with one or more engineered ingredients from corn, soy or sugar beets, such as baby formula, chips, soy milk, and foods with "sugar" or corn syrup.

GE crops have been grown in the U.S. for nearly 20 years, born on a wealth of promises to feed more people and lower the need for pesticides. During this time world hunger has increased, more pesticides (not less) are being used on GE crops, and "super weeds" and "super insects" have evolved. The pests that were supposed to be stymied by GE corn have mutated. Studies are now implicating pesticides used with GE crops as a factor in the loss of the bees that pollinate our food. Not exactly the brave, new world anticipated with this technology.

Are genetically engineered foods safe?

We don't know. No long-term health studies on the effects of eating genetically engineered foods have been conducted by any government agency. The Food and Drug Administration has never said genetically engineered foods are safe but instead point to claims made by chemical companies, which have blocked access to GE seeds so independent scientists can't conduct independent research studies. To be clear, passing I-522 would not ban or prohibit GE foods. I-522 simply would provide transparency for the consumer. It would give consumers the right to know what's in their food.

As parents, we read food labels to ensure our children don't eat too much sugar or artificial additives. Labeling GE foods would give us more information when we're making choices at the grocery store. Food companies relabel their products all the time without raising the price of food; labeling is a routine part of the food industry.

PCC Natural Markets believes the passage of I-522 is a step in the right direction. You can find more information about genetically engineered foods on PCC's website.

by Marilyn Walls, M.S., PCC Nutrition Educator

More about: nutrition, PCC Healthy Kids

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Marilyn Walls, M.S.

Marilyn Walls, PCC Cooks instructor

Marilyn Walls, M.S., is a graduate of Bastyr University, where she subsequently taught for three years. She has been a long-time staffer at PCC, where she has created healthy recipes and shared her knowledge about vitamins, supplements, herbs and essential oils. She loves to read, and has written articles for local publications. Marilyn is currently writing a book on Alzheimer’s disease and brain health.