Port Townsend organic food outlets support GMO labeling
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Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News
Port Townsend resident Mike Mullin, center, talks with Nancy Metcalf, an initiative 522 supporter who is traveling throughout the state driving a custom car meant to call attention to the labeling of genetically modified food.

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — The Food Co-op and the Jefferson County Farmers Markets have endorsed an initiative on the state Nov. 5 general election ballot that would require the labeling of foods that contain genetically modified organisms, or a GMOs, in food outlets.

Port Townsend two major organic food merchants announced support of Initiative 522 last week.

If passed, it would require all genetically modified food sold in the state to be identified on its packaging.

“It's important that people know what's in their food and can make a choice about what they are eating,” said Ann Pougiales, vice president of the Jefferson County Farmers Market board.

Pougiales said that GMOs are not an issue at the farmers markets in Port Townsend and Chimacum, since organically grown produce is almost always free of modifications, aside from corn.

“Those selling at the farmer's markets use organic seeds and know the source, so if there is any GMO food there, it is without the knowledge of the vendor,” she said.

Kathie Meyer, the Food Co-op's marketing and outreach, education and marketing manager, said the requirement to label GMO food wouldn't change how food manufacturers do business “because they are changing their labels all the time.

“We believe that everyone has the right to know what is in their food,” she said.

On Friday, the Co-op hosted an appearance from Nancy Metcalf, a farming activist from Van Zandt, a small Whatcom County town, who drove a car decorated with a representation of a giant tomato with the fins and tail of a fish on its roof and a host of pro-522 signs.

The car, a 2003 Honda Civic with 83,000 miles, was driven from Washington, D.C., and will be circulating around the Northern Olympic Peninsula over the next few weeks as part of the I-522 campaign.

Metcalf said the giant tomato fish weighs 300 pounds and consists of a steel frame covered by chicken wire and wrapped in papier-mache and fiberglass.

“When the car is parked outside of a store, people come up to me out of the blue and want to talk about the issue,” she said.

“So what would normally be a 90-minute shopping trip can take six hours.”

Pamm Larry — who started Proposition 37, the GMO labeling act that was voted down by California voters in 2012 — also will be appearing at speaking engagements in Port Angeles, Sequim and Port Townsend.

Major grocery chains and agribusiness interests spent $46 million fighting Propostition 37, the online Seattle PI said.

Larry will speak at:

-- Quimper Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, 2333 San Juan Ave. in Port Townsend, at 7 p.m. Friday.

-- Nash's Farm Store, 4681 Sequim-Dungeness Way in Sequim, at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

-- Little Theater at Peninsula College (Room J-16), 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd. in Port Angeles, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

These events are free and open to the public.

Larry will speak about Prop 37, why it failed in 2012, and why she feels it is important to pass I-522.

Larry, a farmer, midwife and grandmother of three, said she was so concerned about the modern-day food system that she quit her day job to educate herself on GMOs and how to apply for a ballot initiative.

Annmarie Gianni Skin Care is funding the tour.

“I-522 will require that most foods containing GE [genetically engineered] and/or GMO ingredients must be labeled, and will give each of us the Right To Choose what we eat and feed our families,” the Community Rights Coalitin of Jefferson County says on its website, http://communityrightsjeffersoncountywa.org.

The initiative has drawn heavy opposition.

Supporters of the initiative have put together a $3.5 million war chest, the Seattle PI said last week.

Contributors include DuPont, Dow Agrisciences, BASF Plant Science and Montsanto.

The “No on I-522” campaign quotes Mike LaPlant, president of the Washington State Farm Bureau, as saying that “I-522 would force Washington farmers and food companies to implement costly new labeling, packaging, distribution and recordkeeping requirements that do not exist in any other state.”

The campaign against the measure also says that 522 would require fruits, vegetables and grain-based products to be labeled but would exempt meat and dairy products from animals fed GE grains.

Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: September 16. 2013 6:12PM
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