Standing Up to the True Mission of the “Just Label It” Crowd


Anti-biotech activists are like zombies in a horror movie: No matter how many times you defeat them, they keep snapping back to life, determined to wreak brand-new havoc.

So a month after suffering a bad loss in California on Election Day, they’re shifting their misconceived movement to Connecticut, Oregon, Vermont, and elsewhere. The next engagement is already well underway in the state of Washington, where the frightening extremism of what they really hope to achieve is also on full display.

Their outrageous goal is nothing less than a complete ban of crops enhanced by biotechnology–and they must be stopped.

Last month, 53 percent of Californians said “No!” on Proposition 37, a fatally flawed ballot initiative that would have mandated warning labels for safe food products that may contain ingredients derived from genetically modified crops.

Prop 37 was a bad idea from the start. It would have driven up grocery-store bills without aiding consumers at all. Farmers, doctors, scientists, and just about every daily newspaper editorial page in the state opposed it. In the end, so did most voters.

Yet anti-biotech activists are preparing to strike again. In Washington, they’re gathering signatures now for a ballot initiative modeled on Prop 37. They even have an official name for it: Initiative 522, or I-522. And they’ve raised almost $200,000 in its behalf, according to Linda Thomas of KIR.

Organizers are well on their way to meeting a goal of collecting 320,000 signatures by December 31. They believe this will give them more than enough to guarantee the 242,000 valid names they will need for certification by the secretary of state. If that happens, their proposal will move to the state legislature. As soon as January, lawmakers could approve the measure or allow I-522 to go on the ballot in November 2013.

Odds are the legislature will defer to voters. That’s what happened earlier this year with I-502, an effort to legalize and regulate marijuana. Supporters had gathered signatures, and lawmakers let it appear on the ballot. Last month, 55 percent of voters approved it.

It remains to be seen how I-502 will affect drug use, as selling or possessing pot remains illegal under federal law. But consider the irony: Shortly after Washington voters decided to relax drug laws, anti-GM activists are asking them to impose a crackdown on one of the safest and common technologies in agriculture.

Reasonable people can disagree on the decriminalization of pot. Yet the idea that voters would take a laissez-faire approach to marijuana and then almost immediately impose draconian restrictions on mainstream food ingredients is just plain bizarre.

The opponents of biotechnology try to present a reasonable face to the public, but their real agenda is radical–and it’s already on full view in the state of Washington.

On Election Day, as Californians were casting their ballots against Prop 37, voters in Washington’s San Juan County considered an even more dangerous measure: a total ban on the growing of GM crops.

San Juan County, home to less than 16,000 people, is tiny compared to California and its population of almost 37 million. So its drastic initiative didn’t generate much attention during the campaign season–and neither did the result, in which 61 percent of the county’s voters decided to outlaw the kinds of plants that farmers in much of the rest of the country take for granted.

This is the true mission of the anti-biotech movement: the utter elimination of genetically modified crops from the United States.

If the “Just Label It” crowd wanted to stop at labeling, its leaders would have condemned the vote in San Juan County. But they did no such thing. For people who love to spew out press releases and shout on blogs, their silence was curious–and also revealing.

The rest of us must speak out against both the effort to push new food-label laws and the even more harmful agenda that lies behind it. We know the truth about modern food and agriculture, and it’s our job once again to make sure voters hear about it as well.

Ted Sheely raises lettuce, cotton, tomatoes, wheat, pistachios, wine grapes and garlic on a family farm in the California San Joaquin Valley. He volunteers as a board member for Truth About Trade &Technology (

Ted Sheely

Ted Sheely

Ted raises lettuce, cotton, tomatoes, onions, pistachios, wine grapes and garlic on a family farm. Chairman of Horizon Growers (pistachios). Long-standing interest and investment in water availability and quality. Received Innovative Water Conservation Award.

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