It’s the most contentious issue for industry since the passage of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 or the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994 (DSHEA). More than USD $50 million has already been spent defending it and decrying it—with much more to come.
Yet, most consumers don’t even know what it is. The fight over the mandatory labeling of foods, beverages and dietary supplements containing ingredients from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) will only escalate leading up to November, when voters in the state of Washington will determine the fate of a closely watched GMO-labeling bill, known as Initiative 522. This follows the narrow defeat of a similar bill in California last year. Agriculture is Washington state’s largest employer, and wheat, itself a GMO candidate, is the state’s number two export crop, ahead of the goods and services provided by Microsoft, which ranks third.
At issue isn’t so much whether GMO ingredients are or are not in food and supplement products, but whether consumers should have the right to know of their existence on labels. Supporters of labeling in the Washington initiative noted foods identified as produced without genetic engineering, including conventional foods, are the fastest growing label claim.