Confused by the exemptions in Washington State's 522? Here is why they make sense.
Lobbyists for leading pesticide and junk food companies aren't very creative, at least when it comes to fighting labels on genetically-engineered foods. The current effort Washington State against labeling is looking strikingly similar to last year's in California. The No on 522 campaign even recycled the colors in their logo. (See No on 522 v. No on 37.) In another illustration of déjà vu, the opposition in Washington State is trotting out the argument that voters should reject the measure because it contains a few exemptions.
Desperate and Disingenuous Tactics
First, let's consider the logic at work here: Are lobbyists for the likes of Monsanto saying they are against GE labeling because it does not go far enough? Would Big Food and Big Ag be in favor of GE labeling if only it covered every single kind of food? Of course not; this is just a desperate distraction designed to confuse voters. These industries oppose labeling of any kind that helps people make informed choices.
The No on 522 campaign is so lazy in repeating itself, that for its graphic they just transposed some soup images, moved milk cartons around, and added a few new images to the same flyer developed by lobbyists last year to confuse Californians. What's especially pathetic about the current image is how it lists five examples of exemptions that on closer inspection boil down to three because the other two are redundant. (Two examples are about restaurant food and two others are about animal products.) It's a pretty bad sign when you have to pad your own arguments against a consumer's right to know what's in their food.
The No on 522's leading TV ad, featuring Dan Newhouse (former director of the Washington State Department of Agriculture) is focused completely on the exemptions, which tells you the No campaign's strategy is to confuse consumers, instead of addressing the merits of GE food labeling. Newhouse claims the measure's requirements "conflict with national standards" but gives no explanation. He can't because if there is no current federal requirement to label GE foods, how can 522 conflict with national standards?
The arguments are being so sloppily copied that the No campaign is even getting its facts wrong. In the TV ad script writers made a major goof, claiming that the measure "is so badly written that pet food would be covered but meat for human consumption would be exempt." Not true. (They must have been confusing things with Prop 37, where pet food is included in the state's definition of "food.") But why bother with pesky facts?
In addition to copying and pasting the images, corporate lobbyists are also recycling their claim that the measure's "exemptions make no sense." But actually they do.