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Environment

Washington Votes On Whether To Label Genetically Engineered Food

OPB | Oct. 22, 2013 12:06 p.m. | Updated: Oct. 22, 2013 3:11 p.m.

Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli (Creative Commons)

Credit: Nicholas A. Tonelli (Creative Commons)

Washington voters will decide next month whether foods with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients have to be labeled. The initiative has garnered a lot of attention — the “No” campaign has raised more money than any other initiative opposition campaign in state history. Much of that money is coming from out-of-state, corporate interests.

Part of the reason the measure is so high-profile is its potential to affect manufacturers and consumers outside of Washington. Some companies say they would have to start labeling products sold outside of Washington, simply because the cost of manufacturing a state-specific product would be too expensive.

Supporters of the initiative say the campaign is about informing Washingtonians about what is in their food, in the same way that nutrition facts and ingredient listings already do. Opponents say the measure would increase costs for consumers, because non-GE food requires more water and pesticides than GE food.

It is estimated that 80 percent of packaged foods in U.S. grocery stores already contains GE ingredients. There is broad scientific consensus that the GE foods currently on the market have not been proven to cause health risks, though opponents say GE crops may pose risks that we have not yet identified. The overall environmental impact of GE crops is more debatable.

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