Washington state recently made national news after the "Label It Wa" grass-roots campaign successfully collected and submitted over 350,000 signatures in order to get "I-522 The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act" on the 2013 ballot. This bill would require genetically engineered food in the state to be labeled.
Also in Washington, San Juan County residents and farmers passed Initiative Measure No. 2012-4 to ban the growth of genetically modified organisms. Now, Republican Representative Cary Condotta has stepped up and introduced House Bill 1407, which aims to remove the bureaucratic red tape, allowing local legislative authorities to regulate genetically modified organisms from foods to seeds as they see fit, instead of relying on the state to take action.
"When we saw San Juan do this, we thought it was great, so we see this on a different path than I-522 but we made sure to put a provision in HB 1407 that none of it would override I-522, so if the labeling bill passes all food will still be labeled state wide, this just gives the local level even more control," explained Rep Condotta.
HB 1407 leaves no stone unturned on what local citizens can decide regarding GMO. Section 1 reads: It is within the jurisdiction of the local legislative authority to determine the parameters of regulation, which may include the production, use, advertising, sale, distribution, storage, transportation, formulation, packaging, labeling, certification, registration, propagation, cultivation, raising, or growing of genetically modified organisms.
"If Monsanto wanted to come in and sue San Juan county for whatever reason, San Juan county would have to defend itself. If it was this bill from the legislature that they acted upon, then the Attorney General would have to defend it and that would be a much better opportunity against Monsanto so that's why were trying to have a state bill that says you cities and counties want to do this? We'll back you up on it," explained Condotta.
Many farmers and residents in Douglas county have been discussing their worry over genetically modified Wheat infecting their crops through cross pollination. This bill would give the local residents more power to regulate or ban GM Wheat if HB 1407 passed.
"I think this has a great chance of passing because its not prescriptive. It will be very hard for anyone to argue against this bill because nobody has to do anything. We can pass this bill and nobody could ever write an ordinance, so its not forcing anybody to do anything and there is no cost involved, but it allows people who want to get involved who feel passionately about this issue to protect themselves from what they don't like on the local level," said Condotta.