Many have asked me lately what I think of the two initiatives on this year’s ballot. After evaluating both proposals, I am urging a no vote on both of them.
I-522 sounds simple: require foods that contain genetically modified ingredients (for instance, cereal with genetically modified corn) to have a label that indicates that. Many proponents of this initiative are well-meaning, and their rationale sounds reasonable – after all, who could be against more info!
The real aim, however, is to scare consumers away from perfectly safe foods. The overwhelming scientific consensus is that genetically modified foods are just as nutritious and safe for us as non-GMO foods. This initiative is full of confusing, unfair loopholes and exceptions, will require onerous rules on Washington farmers, and allows lawsuits against anyone in the production chain.
The Washington State Academy of Sciences conducted a study at the request of a bipartisan group of legislators. They concluded that I-522 will raise the price of your family’s groceries. Given that those concerned about GMOs can already buy organic-labeled products, it does not make sense to pass this expensive, confusing law that will hurt our farmers.
I-517, the “initiative on initiatives,” would lengthen the amount of time initiative organizers have to gather signatures and require access to public buildings and certain pieces of private property for signature gatherers to solicit signatures.
The initiative and referendum system is one of our most important democratic tools and the right of the people to petition their government should be robustly protected. While I-517 has some positive aspects, it goes too far and its impositions on private property owners will likely be struck down by the courts.
Former State Auditor Brian Sonntag, former Secretary of State Sam Reed, and I all oppose I-517. From the Columbian’s editorial:
I-517 would expand the locations where signature gatherers could operate, including inside public spaces such as sports venues, convention centers or libraries. The last thing sports fans or concertgoers want at an event is to be bothered by a signature gatherer who is being paid by an initiative’s sponsor based upon how many names they add to their list.
In addition, the initiative says that signature gatherers are not to be “inhibited or restricted in any way” on “all sidewalks and walkways that carry pedestrian traffic, including those in front of the entrances and exits of any stores.” This would restrict the property rights of business owners, preventing them from placing reasonable limitations upon gatherers on their property.
- Wenatchee World: No need for Initiative 522
- Seattle Times: Vote No on Initiative 522, the GMO labeling initiative
- Vancouver Columbian: Vote No on Initiative 522
- Tri-City Herald: Reject Initiative 522
- Longview Daily News: I-522 won’t make your food any safer
- Spokane Journal of Business: I-522 would create bureaucratic morass
- Tacoma News Tribune: I-522: Deceptive ‘truth’ about food and science
- Everett Herald: A reluctant no on I-522
- Yakima Herald-Republic: Initiative 522 creates more problems than it solves
- Vancouver Columbian: Initiative 517 Goes Too Far
- The Olympian: I-517 creates new problems; initiative process working
- Seattle Times: Vote No on Initiative 517
- Everett Herald: Vote no on Eyman’s I-517
- Tacoma News Tribune: I-517’s protections aren’t needed, go too far
- Tri-City Herald: Initiative 517 – Vote No
— Rob McKenna
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