PULLMAN, Wash.-Researchers at Washington State University's Agricultural Research Center call an initiative to label genetically modified foods "useless information," citing a lack of clarity and supporting research.
"The information that is on a product should be information that is useful to people," commented the center's Associate Director Michael Kahn. "You can't put everything on there."
Initiative 522 is on Washington's November ballot, and would require almost all genetically modified foods, or GMOs, to bear labels for consumers. Both sides of the issue have raised millions of dollars for their respective campaigns, making it one of the most expensive initiatives in state history.
Supporters of I-522 said their mission was not out of concerns for food safety, but rather food information. Its campaign pointed to labeling on fish caught in the wild or raised on a farm as a similarly labeled product.
However, Kahn and Assistant Professor Michael Neff believe information on GMOs is misleading.
"To put on a label that says `may contain GMO', does not tell people what type of GMO may be in there," Naff explained.
GMOs are mainly found in seven crops. The main crop is corn, but cotton, soybean and alfalfa are the top three genetically modified farm products. Modified can mean parts of a seed are removed or altered in a laboratory with a variety of other genes.
Kahn and Neff said little of what is grown in Washington is GMO, adding that the state "grows a lot of small crops."
"There's no scientific evidence, credible or reproducible, that eating a GMO plant is bad or unhealthy for you to eat," Neff said.
I-522 proponents denied the labeling of GMO foods would be useless and said consumers have a right to know what they buy and eat.
Kahn said it won't be long before almost all foods will have to be genetically modified, to keep up with demand, technology and the economy.