Several people have inquired about the position of WSU, the College of Agriculture, Human and Natural Resource Sciences, and the Center for Sustaining Agriculture & Natural Resources on I-522, the initiative focused on GMO labeling in Washington State. A recent memo from Provost Dan Bernardo and Interim Dean Ron Mittelhammer clarifies that WSU and CAHNRS are officially neutral in relation to I-522. It further explains that while individual faculty members (current and emeritus) have the right to express their opinions as individual citizens, these opinions do not constitute a position for the University or College. This position is consistent with the investments that the University and College have been making in sustainable and organic agriculture research and education over the years, including CSANR.
CSANR’s position with regard to I-522 is the same as the University and College that we are part of: we are neutral. In speaking with CSANR Advisory Committee members earlier this year (who stand on both sides of the issue), there was consensus that this was a desirable position for the Center to have. While we certainly have faculty with scientific expertise relevant to the issue, our responsibility is to conduct and disseminate research-based information for the public to weigh and consider and not to advocate for a specific political outcome. Therefore, the extent of our action to date has been to point people to specific scientific resources relevant to the debate.
Some may also be wondering what CSANR’s larger “policy” is on genetic engineering/GMO crops. Again, consistent with the consensus guidance we’ve received from the CSANR Advisory Committee, the Center has remained “neutral on the debate”. However, we have also explicitly elected to make sure that our unit-level research investments are consistent with the larger consensus of the sustainable agriculture community and specific considerations of community members who supported the establishment of CSANR and the BIOAg grant program. Therefore, our grant program (BIOAg) funding may not be used to support the development of, or promote stakeholder use of, transgenic crops.