Tuesday, November 12, 2013

522 Redo

I know I try to stay away from a lot of politics because I can't stand politics, but as I watched yet another thing I voted for fail (want something to fail? get me to vote for it), I couldn't help thinking they'd gone at it all wrong.

522 would have required foods in Washington State to be labeled if they contain Genetically Engineered or Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).  It was defeated, in part, by large contributions by Monsanto as well as Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Nestle (hiding with others behind the "Grocery Manufacturers Association" label).  Because frankly, these companies don't want you to look at labels, they want you to remain ignorant. These are the same companies that label their products in other countries where required, and in some cases, even reformulate to avoid having to label at all.

As a parent who has at least one child extremely affected by an unnecessary foodstuff (Red Dye 40), I'm going to be in favor of anything that reduces the amount of, pardon me, unnecessary crap added to our food. So to hear companies like Mars and Kraft produce versions of their products for other countries without these dyes because to use the dyes would require warning labels on the packages, you can be sure I'm going to vote for anything that reduces the inclusion of such unhealthy things in our food, or at least shames companies in choosing not to use it.

Previous to this campaign, Monsanto hadn't cared much about Washington state, its previous largest donation to any campaign was $90k. But to try to defeat 522, Monsanto poured $4.6 million into the No on 522 campaign. The arguments I heard were that the labeling requirements were inconsistent. Of course, it wasn't a "label everything" demand it was "if they don't have to play, I'm not going to play" misguided appeal to fairness.  Yes, let's keep everyone ignorant!  And just enough people fell for it.

I, on the other hand, said, "Let's get a toehold."  Some things are exempted today, but we can work to close those loopholes later.  But some people actually pay attention to TV commercials and were swayed to say "Yes, I want to remain ignorant! I'm voting no!"  Sadly, this also happened in California.

Some people will say that frankenfoods from companies like Monsanto and others have their benefits... crop reliability, better yields, but I've also heard people talk about it being self-serving - people who still have crops fail, or farmers being sued when a neighbor's mutant crop seeds are carried on the wind to their field and they unwittingly are now using a copyrighted product they haven't paid for.

So, new idea... thinking of past opt-in branding campaigns that are easy to rally around, like "Buy American" or "Happy cows come from California" - it seems like there's an opportunity to, instead of forcing poisonous products to be labeled as such, what about a way to clearly show the healthy food? Much in the way that some products proudly claim "No Trans Fat!" or "No sugar added!" maybe it's time for a "NO GMO" logo. Create a certification board (or maybe one already exists) that will certify your product to carry the logo. You pay to have your product tested by an independent third-party and you pay a small fee to get to use the logo. The funds from that are used in advertising campaigns to tell you to "Look at the label." That reminds those people sitting on their couches watching TV ads to look at the labels of the foods they're eating. It's not political, you can do such advertising all the time, and who can say that's a bad idea?

By the time the elections roll around, you've been encouraging people for months or years to be smarter about what they're putting in their mouths. Most will, but the ones who refuse have done so full well choosing to remain ignorant and unhealthy.

And now, another take:

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