Sequim woman to testify in favor of genetically engineered food labeling

SEQUIM — A local proponent of labeling genetically engineered foods will be in Olympia today and Friday to testify before the House and Senate hearings committees, part of an organic farming contingent of nutritional, agricultural and environmental advocates descending on the state capital.

“It’s so critical to us as farmers to have the managing of [genetically modified organisms] in Washington state,” said Kia Armstrong, marketing director and advocate for Nash’s Organic Produce and Farm Store in Dungeness.

Two state legislators have introduced bipartisan GMO labeling bills in the House and Senate.

Sen. Marilyn Chase, D-Shoreline, is sponsoring Senate Bill 6298, and Rep. Cary Condotta, R-Wenatchee, is sponsoring House Bill 2637.

Both require labeling of foods that are produced using genetically engineered materials or genetically modified organisms.

Armstrong, who led the GMO Awareness Group of Sequim in two informational demonstrations downtown last year, said she plans to testify before the Senate hearings committee today and the House committee Friday in favor of the legislation.

“Our farm store is GMO-free for the most part, and we’ve taken a stand in making sure things can be labeled,” she said.

“We’d like to see accountability in labeling across the board.”

GMOs are plants or animals whose DNA or genes have been modified or manipulated in a laboratory in a way that would never happen in nature and which some scientists have said could be harmful.

“The time is now to get in there and get our voices heard,” Armstrong said.

The U.S. leads the world in commercialized genetically modified crop production, with genetically modified salmon the next food item slated for public consumption.

Products derived from these crops are found in most nonorganic processed foods, including oils from soy, cotton, canola and corn as well as soy protein, soy lecithin, cornstarch, corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup.

Also meat, eggs and dairy products from animals that have eaten genetically modified feed and food additives; enzymes; flavorings; and processing agents, including the sweetener aspartame, are considered by many scientists to be harmful to health.

Armstrong said she attended last weekend’s sixth Organic Seed Growers Conference in Port Townsend, where GMOs in seeds and food products were a “hot-button” topic.

The Organic Seed Alliance has long been based in Port Townsend.

Armstrong said she will join Les Berenson, a medical doctor and co-chair of GMO Free Washington, and others with the organization who are expected to go before lawmakers considering GMO labeling legislation.

Supporters were being encouraged to take the “GMO Free Bus” from Seattle to Olympia to help transport at least 200 people to the capital.

“I wouldn’t be shocked if there were hundreds of people there,” Armstrong said.

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Sequim-Dungeness Valley Editor Jeff Chew can be reached at 360-681-2391 or at [email protected]

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