The Ben & Jerry’s Scoop Shop in Gig Harbor was a recent stop for co-founder and owner Jerry Greenfield.
“Jerry” was on a weeklong Ice Cream Truck tour that started in Spokane and passed through Gig Harbor last Thursday. The tour’s intent was to create awareness and offer the company’s support for Initiative 522.
According to the proposal, I-522 would require agricultural commodities and processed foods using genetically engineered or modified food to be labeled if used for retail sales. It will be on the November ballot.
“Washington (state) is where the action is,” Greenfield said. “After a 350,000-person petition, this is now a public ballot. It’s a grassroots movement that will be decided by voters and not lobbyists. If it passes, it will help on the national scale to create national policy.”
Chris Miller, activist manager for Ben and Jerry’s, said there are 30 states with similar proposals.
“Washington state is critical for us in passing to have a base for a national standard,” Miller said. “We feel adding five words ‘May contain GMO ingredients’ isn’t asking too much. Companies have to modify and add product ingredients to their labels all the time and would have 18 months to make the change.”
The Gig Harbor store gave away free ice cream to anyone who wanted some, and “Jerry” met with interested customers.
Jake Enslin of Gig Harbor stopped in for the ice cream and met the founder of the company.
“I had heard a little about the initiative,” Enslin said. “Talking to Jerry and the company’s involvement was interesting. It’s unique that it is a grassroots movement.”
Gig Harbor employees were thrilled about being a stopover for the owner.
“It’s cool to have Jerry here,” Casey Kuykendall said. “He’s a really supportive employer to us. It’s exciting to meet him.”
Coming from Tacoma, it was the owner’s first trip to Gig Harbor.
“It’s a beautiful area,” Greenfield said. “I enjoyed the view coming over the bridge.”
The crowd in the shop was low-key, with small groups of people passing in and out of the store, most not realizing “Jerry” was in house.
“We are talking to one voter at a time, and why it’s important, so they can make an informed decision,” said Sean Greenwood, Ben &Jerry’s director of publicity and communication. “Vermont and Washington are a lot alike. So many people care about the local aspect of their food. The farm-to-table mentality is prevalent. One of the main concerns we hear is Washingtonians want to make sure this is good for the local farmer.”
Opponents of I-522 include other national corporations, such as Monsanto, which cites higher costs and confusion on the labels to consumers as reasons to reject the proposal.
“The response overall has been positive on our tour, including here in Gig Harbor,” Greenfield said. “We’re here because Ben & Jerry’s cares about I-522. We feel people have a right to know what’s in their food to make informed decisions. It’s a common-sense issue.”Lifestyles Coordinator Reporter Kim Eibel can be reached at 253-358-4152, or by email at email@example.com.