Thursday, November 7, 2013

Yes on 522: Lessons Learned - Glen Anderson

Yes on 522: The campaign to label genetically engineered foods in Washington state:

Strategies for a 2016 initiative about GMOs

Some friends are discussing I-522’s campaign. I offered these insights and want to share them with you. I hope you’ll be able to pass them along to the I-522 campaign’s top people and others who can help us make progress:

1. Broad public education is a necessary part of a grassroots movement, such as shifting public opinion to oppose (or even label) GMOs. Without the vigorous grassroots movement-building early (as TJ points out), much of the “YES” campaign had to focus on merely educating voters about what GMOs are. Educating the public consumes a lot of time and effort, because they need to understand the issue BEFORE they can consider whether to vote for it.

2. Therefore, if we hope to label GMO foods in the future, the grassroots movement to educate the public must occur early, so the ground will be fertile for an initiative ballot campaign.

3. I urge doing this grassroots public education now and then running another initiative for the November 2016 general election when a larger number of liberals and progressives are likely to vote.

4. The “YES” campaign strategically to focus just on labeling (consumers’ right to know what’s in our food) rather than banning GMOs. Requiring a label is probably more practical and more electorally winnable than imposing a total ban. But this electoral strategy largely removes the scientific and health and environmental risks from the debate, and those are the main reasons why we oppose GMOs. We were left with a campaign only about our right to know, but without the context of WHY we need to know.

5. The remedy for this is to broadly educate the public so the public will learn WHY to oppose GMOs. Then – in 2016 – when we run another initiative, people will be ready to vote “YES.”

6. When a progressive issue is on the ballot, the Establishment that wants to maintain the status quo tries to confuse the public as well as misinform the public. PSE did this to defeat our public power initiative in 2012. This is really one of the Establishment’s main strategies. When voters are confused, they simply vote “NO” to avoid taking a risk that they don’t understand, because voting “NO” seems safest.

7. If we educate the public about GMOs BEFORE running a 2016 initiative campaign, we will inoculate the voters against the confusion and disinformation.


Glen Anderson
Date: November 7, 2013 at 11:57:38 AM PST


  1. 1) Direct mail is critical. Run less TV ads if you have to, because mail pieces are far more important to your likely voters. Also, use a better segmented voter file.
    2) You can't gloss over the exemptions. The 522 commercials and web site just say "the exemptions are common sense" without telling people WHY they are common sense. It takes 5 seconds to say "Federal Supremacy Clause" and "State Single Issue Clause" - voters aren't idiots. If you tell them the law is as strong as it can possibly be within the confines of federal law, they'll understand.
    3) Embrace the "labels are a skull and crossbones" message. GMOs are a product of chemical companies. They make them to sell more chemicals and to control the food supply. Chemicals cause health problems. Why label Roundup but not Roundup Ready? The plants are drinking the herbicide, and then we eat it. These products NEED a warning label.

  2. I was really sorry to see that it didn't pass. I am sure it will next time. I bought some Dole (Non organic) lettuce and spinach. Yesterday, I used a good chunk of it in a smoothie and have been sick ever since. About 24 hours or so. I wasn't paying attention when I bought it!