In Washington state, wheat is king.
This cash crop is one of the state's most lucrative exports, ranking right alongside Boeing and Microsoft. A bill sponsored by Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, seeks to protect Washington's wheat export market, the farmers who grow it and our economy as a whole.
Senate Bill 6298 would require that genetically engineered food be labeled as such. The bill was heard Thursday in the Senate Agriculture, Water & Rural Economic Development Committee.
The committee heard testimony from many farmers and advocates from the health and organic food communities.
At issue is the fact that over 50 markets worldwide refuse to import genetically altered food unless it is properly labeled. While genetically engineered wheat is not yet on the market, when it is introduced any wheat crops that lack proper labeling will become suspect in the eyes of importers.
“We simply cannot afford to put our wheat market in harm’s way,” Chase said. “By just placing a simple label on the food that has been genetically engineered, we can avoid potentially horrendous residual effects to one of our state’s most important and lucrative exports.”
Other crops and markets are currently experiencing those devastating effects. In 1994 and 1995, U.S. farmers supplied 82 percent of the corn imported by European Union countries. Just 10 years later, in large part because of biotechnology, that number had dropped to zero.
The U.S. rice, soybean and sugar beet industry also has experienced similar declines in export numbers.