Washington Farm Bureau Votes to Oppose Initiative 522

Posted 5/24/2013

Members of the Washington Farm Bureau State Board voted last week to join the ‘No On 522’ Coalition, the group that has formed to fight Initiative 522. If passed by voters in November, I-522 would make Washington the only state in the country to require special labels on food products containing genetically engineered ingredients.

The board opposes the initiative because it would:

  • Impose added costs to farmers through increased regulatory and bookkeeping requirements, which will drive up food costs for Washington residents.
  • Exempt two-thirds of all the food and beverages sold in the state from the labeling requirements (i.e., all alcoholic beverages, food served in restaurants, hospitals, etc.), while requiring labeling of raw and processed foods sold in grocery stores and farmers markets will be required to be labeled, even if they are the same as foods sold in restaurants where labeling is exempted under I-522.
  • Create a mechanism for frivolous lawsuits against farmers, food processors and grocery stores if they inadvertently fail to properly label a food product. Under I-522 a person can file a lawsuit without having to show they have been harmed in any way.
  • Unfairly allows those bringing a lawsuit to recover their legal costs if their case is successful, while precluding the same remedy for defendants (i.e., farmers) to recoup the costs of a successful defense.

The board’s decision was based solely on the problems associated with the existing language of I-522, and the specific concerns listed above, and did not include a position for or against genetic engineering.

Washington Farm Bureau is joined by Franklin, Skagit, and Grays Harbor/Pacific County Farm Bureaus in formally opposing I-522, along with the Association of Washington Business and several agricultural organizations.

More information will be provided as the campaign begins in earnest.  If you have any questions, please contact Tom Davis, director of government relations, at tdavis@wsfb.com.

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