Initiatives from California to Washington, from Prop. 37 to I-522

Politically-informed members are probably aware that a measure similar to California's defeated Proposition 37 will be on the ballot in Washington state. Voters there will be judging I-522 on November 5, 2013.

Donations for and against the initiatives have been of concern to some shoppers, because many “natural” and organic brands are owned by corporations that support the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a stalwart foe of I-522.

Here's a link to the latest (mid-September) round-up of donor brands.

Because of the similarities between the two initiatives, we thought it was relevant to recall some of what our Board wrote in 2012:

For us, Proposition 37 is fundamentally about information, disclosure, and consumers' “right to know” – not a judgment about genetic engineering and agriculture.

The consumer cooperative movement has a long history of leadership in advancing consumer education and empowerment, particularly around food. The Rochdale Pioneers in the mid-19th century promoted food education. Retail food cooperatives in Berkeley and Palo Alto pioneered ingredient and nutrition labeling on grocery packages in the 20th century. The Federal “Fair Packaging and Labeling Law” of 1966 received broad support from cooperative organizations and home economics professionals.

“Education, training, and information” is one of the seven cooperative principles that guides our organization. In the spirit of consumers' “right to know” and our ongoing commitment to education that leads to informed choices about health, food systems, the environment, and cooperatives, we've examined Proposition 37 and the arguments for and against it. We've also listened to a diverse array of opinions from our member owners, who are represented by our democratically-elected Board of Directors.

Some contend that Proposition 37 is not about the “right to know,” but rather about limiting choices and that labeling is designed to scare rather than to inform. Some claim that the initiative is poorly written. The Center for Science in the Public Interest believes that irradiated and cloned foods should be added to the proposed legislation. While we respect these opinions and our member owners who endorse them, our assessment is that labeling proposed in Proposition 37 will advance consumer education and empowerment about food choices.

We know that fair-minded and cooperative people have different opinions about the use of genetic engineering in agriculture. We have supported debate, in our newsletter and in the aisles, and we are committed to providing a welcoming and respectful space where members of the co-op and our community can discuss this important issue.