It may not be a Presidential election year, but food activists’ demands on voters’ time and effort aren’t taking a year off. Fresh off three stinging defeats in California last year, activists have put their faith in Washington State and a Colorado mountain town to get their anti-food-freedom agenda on track. Both measures are in vote-by-mail states, so people are already casting ballots.
⋅Washington Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Measure, Initiative 522 (I-522): In an effort backed strongly by organic food and consumer product companies, activists have proposed mandating conspicuous, front-of-package labels — characterized by a Politico writer as “warning labels” — on foods produced using biotechnology. The measure has many of the same flaws in design—a trial lawyer “bounty hunter” provision, most notably—as a California proposal (Proposition 37) that was defeated by voters last year.
Under a quirky provision of Washington law, the measure first went to the state legislature, which held hearings earlier this year. Legislators questioned whether the proposal served a legitimate health interest, with one memorably asking, “I mean, why should I care?” Reputable scientific sources including the World Health Organization and the American Association for the Advancement of Science find biotechnology processes safe, and the American Medical Association recently ruled that labeling like I-522’s is not necessary or useful.
Ultimately, a Seattle Times reporter left a legislative hearing believing, “Initiative 522 begins to look like an organic-food industry effort to impose a label on its competitors.” That fact, and the lack of scientific support for I-522, have led Washington newspapers including the Times, the Yakima Herald, The Olympian, and the Spokesman-Review to reject the measure. Other observers have suggested that the measure may violate several provisions of federal law regarding the separation of state and federal powers and may end up invalidated even if it passes.
⋅Telluride, Colorado Tax on Soda, Measure 2A: After suffering overwhelming defeats in two California cities with a combined population of 217,176, many of the same activists behind those two efforts have descended upon Telluride, Colorado (population: 2,303) to push a $1.28 per gallon tax on soft drinks.
It’s a cynical political ploy by special interest groups including the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (CCPHA), which has led efforts to tax sodas at the state level in California, to play on Telluride’s hippie-ish sentiments and “build momentum” to tax these beverages everywhere. Some are seeing through the strategy, with a local businessman noting that $50,000 for the pro-tax campaign came from the Action Now Initiative based in Texas.
Another Telluride commentator went further, espousing a resolute defense of personal responsibility and choice. Hailing the town’s and the region’s skiing heritage and the power of parenting to resist childhood obesity, the writer explained:
We live here because we enjoy our personal freedom. […] We’ve even declared ourselves a civil liberties “safe zone.” But now we’re being told we shouldn’t even be able to buy groceries or order dinner without the government’s help? We all know what’s best for ourselves and our families, and we should be free to make those choices however we see fit.