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Washington voters reject GMO labeling initiative

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Voters rejected Washington state's I-522, which would have required labels on products made with the help of genetic engineering.

It was a narrow margin of defeat, 51 percent to 49 percent, but it remains a victory of sound science over exaggeration.

Voters have rejected Washington state's GMO labeling ititiative by 51 percent to 49 percent. The defeat of I-522 is a narrow victory for sound science over hyperbole and for U.S. farmers over 19th century agriculture.

No doubt, the GMO labeling pack will be back, promoting every negative story about genetically modified crops it can dredge up and yet never quite getting the concept that agricultural biotechnology is a dynamic industry, always striving to stay a step ahead of the pest complexes and environmental stresses that have plagued agriculture for centuries.

Yes, agriculture outspent them

Every step of the way, the Yes on I-522 campaign has complained that “No on I-522”  simply outspent them, thanks to contributions from big corporations.

Point taken. But what about all the free publicity the anti-GMO movement enjoys from news outlets that blindly publicize their shaky studies and news releases? What about the misinformation spread via the social media? What about the blatantly misleading language in I-522 itself?

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To disseminate fact-based science to counter the trash talk about GMOs, costs money.

The bottom line is that prior to the initiative, Washington state residents had no idea that genetic engineering makes the U.S. farmer more competitive, are safe for the environment and to consume and are essentially no different in taste or nutrition than, say, a food product made using organic production.

Now, hopefully, they do.

It isn't over

But make no mistake, modern agriculture is in a fight with extremists who understand all too well that the words “Made from GMOs” has nothing to do with the consumer’s right to know. It’s about creating doubt in a consumer’s mind.

The hope is that Americans might construe a “Made with GMOs” label as a warning rather than informative wording, and react by avoiding products made with the aid of GMOs. This, of course would have a domino effect on the planting of genetically-engineered crops.

Through the efforts of the “No on I-522” campaign, Washington state residents finally got the message – that a label is simply not the place to wage a public relations campaign against modern agriculture.

And that brings up another point. The one thing that could give pause to these labeling initiatives is the quite unintended consequence that the process educates consumers about the real benefits of GMOs. No matter where the source of the funding, that’s money well spent.

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