Our Voice: Plenty of food for thought before voting on GMO labeling initiative

We all like to eat.

And we live in a nation that is blessed with an abundant food supply.

Closer to home, we reside in the heart of prime agricultural production territory, where an amazingly diverse assortment of crops are grown each year in large part thanks to our irrigation systems.

Technology and stewardship have helped our farmers to grow food more efficiently, with more yield per acre and heartier plant stock.

And, yes, in some cases that means the use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms). While that may be a scary sounding term, most consumers armed with just a little education quickly realize that genetic modification has its benefits and is common in most things we eat.

A good basic rule of thumb is that if it's not organic, there's likely a GMO component to the product's existence.

Washington's voters will get to decide their comfort level with GMOs with Initiative 522 on this fall's ballot.

If passed, it would require any food sold in Washington to say if it contains genetically altered substances.

Washington is not alone in considering the labels, but likely will be the only state with a ballot initiative this year. California voters rejected a similar proposal last year in a race where money from agricultural interests far out-gunned that of proponents of the measure.

Proponents of food labeling say they are concerned about the effects of genetically altered food on humans and have held protests against companies like Monsanto, which is in the business of engineering food products. Initiative backers say additional studies are needed on the health effects of GMOs.

Opponents of I-522 say the labels are expensive and unnecessary. Labels could drive food costs up and scare some consumers out of eating food that is perfectly safe for consumption.

It used to be easy to consider California voters a bunch of liberals, and predict that if they rejected GMO labeling, so will Washington voters. But that's no longer a valid assumption. Washington has become a battle ground for progressive initiatives -- legalizing marijuana and same-sex marriage last year.

What consumers need in the case of GMOs is education. Companies like Monsanto alter foods to aid production, which helps create our bountiful food supply.

The real detriments to our society are overly processed foods, and the fact that we eat too much junk.

Sticking with foods that are as close to their natural state as possible and eating reasonable portions would better serve us all.

While we're skeptical about the benefits of GMO labeling, there's a long campaign season ahead and we'll see what the two sides have to say before weighing in.

If GMO labeling does become law, we expect it will be much like the mandatory calorie and fat counts on food labeling now. Judging from our nation's obesity epidemic, it's apparent that either people don't read them or they don't care.