October 20, 2013 in Opinion

Initiative 522 would bring honesty to grocery store shelves

Maurice Robinette
 

All of us – as shoppers, as growers and as ranchers – have the right to know what’s in our food. Information is the key to supporting a productive and sustainable food system.

For generations, my family has lived and raised cattle in the Spokane area. I’ve worked as a rancher for decades now. Over the years, my family and business has seen an evolution take place in our customer base. Being in the middle of the Information Age, our customers are asking more and more questions about the cattle we raise and the beef we sell. So we provide it. We believe in being transparent. If our customers want that information, we will give it them.

I support Initiative 522 because I believe that transparency in our food system is a good thing. All of us – as shoppers, as growers and as ranchers – have the right to know what’s in our food. I-522 ensures us access to that information. Information is the key to supporting a productive and sustainable food system. And with more information, consumers like you and me can make the best grocery shopping decisions for themselves and their families.

I-522 will label food that has been genetically engineered; like corn. It would also label food that has been produced with genetic engineered ingredients, like cold cereals and candy. Just like we already label foods for sugar, country of origin or whether our fish is farm-raised or wild-caught, I-522 is about providing more information to all of us in the grocery store. You have the right to know whether your food was genetically engineered. Five out-of-state corporations and one Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm are trying to keep you from this information. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather not let far-off political groups or corporate interests keep me from knowing what’s in my food.

Opponents of labeling are making some egregious claims on television and the Internet, and we hope that you won’t fall for their false claims. First, they are claiming that I-522 will increase costs. It will not. Sixty-four other countries already label genetically engineered foods and their grocery prices haven’t gone up. Why should they go up here if we’re doing the same thing? And, as you and I see at the store, food companies change and update labels all of the time, and yet prices don’t go up. Don’t fall for their false claims. I-522 won’t increase your grocery bill.

Second, our opposition will claim that I-522 exempts a bunch of foods. It doesn’t. I-522 was written to conform to common labeling standards. When you go to your grocery store, the frozen pizza is labeled. When you get pizza at your local pizzeria, it isn’t labeled. I-522 won’t change that. The no side claims we are exempting meat and dairy, but they neglect to mention that dairy and meat from genetically engineered animals would be labeled under I-522. Right now, there are no genetically engineered animals on the market, so of course those products won’t be labeled. Again, don’t listen to their false claims.

Last, opponents are claiming that this will hurt the agricultural industry. As a rancher, I can tell you it won’t. The ag industry is all about delivering goods that our customers want. I-522 won’t change that. Farmers can still grow what they want. In fact, hundreds of farmers and the Washington State Farmers Market Association have endorsed I-522. This is really about the food in the grocery store getting labeled. Don’t be fooled by the opposition’s claims. I-522 will not hurt farmers.

I-522 is about giving every Washingtonian the freedom to make the best grocery shopping decisions for you and your family. We deserve to have a choice at the grocery store. Join us and vote yes on I-522 this November.

Maurice Robinette is a third-generation rancher from Spokane County.  The Lazy R started in 1937 and continues to produce high-quality beef without giving genetically modified feed to his cows or using any antibiotics, steroids or artificial ingredients. 

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