Despite losing in the state with arguably the most anti-science crackpots in its citizenry - California - GMO activists in arguably the second most anti-science state - Washington - are determined to show the country why they should be number one.
Unlike the initiative in California, which was the result of alternative medicine corporations outside the state hiring a prominent litigation lawyer to spearhead it, this one was started by the head of a small advertising agency. He's no dummy. California's Prop 37 was really one-sided in its funding early on, with snake oil peddlers like Mercola.com and Dr. Bonner's Magic Soap dwarfing the advertising budget of the farmers and grocery stores on the other side, but by election time an estimated $50 million had been spent promoting the pros and cons of the science and non-science sides.
So it makes sense that a business person in Washington might expect similar advertising money to flow toward the leader of this new initiative, Chris McManus, who just happens to run an ad agency. In California, the author of Prop 37 was the same attorney who got rich suing under Prop 65 decades earlier so the business model is sound. Money can hurt or help the actual cause but for advertisers there can be no loser.
Wheat farmers in Washington state tried to get a similar initiative passed last year and they were at least honest about their motivations; none of that business about purity of food, it was about exports. GMOs are the great equalizer for countries that are not agriculturally rich like the United States. GMOs let poor people grow more of their own food and that means less of a market for western Europe and the United States. The fact that Monsanto has not even begun testing genetically modified wheat and even once they do, it won't be available for 10 years, did not matter, they wanted current science banned and future science too.
Despite claims by detractors that GMOs won't ever help people because evil corporations in their corporation-y buildings will make money, GMOs have been overwhelmingly shown to help poor people. The 'Domino effect' of more food at lower prices is well known also; Cheaper food means more wealth spent on other things and those other things are always literacy and culture. Nations like India, that have embraced modern farming, have seen incomes shoot up 140%. There are environmental benefits to science that activists also disregard because it violates their meme about ecology. Yet America has had crop yields increase over 50% since I was in college - and is using 30% fewer emissions to do it.
What is always surprising in these anti-science efforts is the hint of third world patronization that goes on. Greenpeace will say they care about the world while they insist Golden Rice is evil despite the evidence. It is a de facto war on poor kids who could go blind.
Yet activists don't live in a world of science, they exist in a world of hyperbole and appeals to emotion - so naturally the folks in Washington delivered their 350,000 petition signatures to state officials in an ambulance, one that read "Label GMO Food" on the side.
Get it?? If you eat GM food, you will need an ambulance.
Will this effort do any better? Maybe, though once you get outside Seattle, people in Washington are pretty practical. In Seattle, six kindergartens have vaccine exemption rates of over 20%, well below herd immunity levels. But Washington overall only has 6.2% anti-vaccine people. That sounds like a lot, I know, especially when you compare it to states that are more religious and therefore supposedly more anti-science, like Alabama(1) with its 0.5% exemptions, including for religious, philosophical or medical reasons. It means that once you leave Seattle people accept science a lot more, a similar trend in California's coastal versus inland demographics.
Will this one work? Stay tuned.
Washington State Initiative 522 - The GMO Warning Label Battle Rages On