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Campaign to Label GM Foods Moves To Washington State

More than enough signatures were filed in Washington State, 24 hours before today’s deadline, to send an initiative to the Legislature that would require the labeling of genetically engineered foods sold at retail.

If the Washington State Legislature does not adopt the measure, it will move on to the November general election ballot. Washington law also gives the legislature the option of referring its own alternative version of an initiative directly to voters.

Backers of the GMO labeling measure, known as Initiative 522, collected 340,000 signatures, more than the 241,153 valid voter signatures required by state law to qualify as an initiative to the legislature.

The Secretary of State’s spokesman said I-522 “would require most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stocks, if produced using genetic engineering as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale.”

I-522 is similar to California’s Proposition 37, which was defeated last November.

The Washington State initiative claims that with 49 other nations requiring disclosure of genetically modified foods, the lack of disclosure on U.S. crops is interfering with this country’s ability to export. It says the public “wants to know” if their food is produced with genetic engineering, and that without such disclosure consumers could violate their own dietary or religious restrictions.

In last November’s elections, the solidly blue state elected a House with 55 Democrats to 43 Republicans and a Senate with 26 Democrats to 23 Republicans. However, post election party switches by two Democrats put control of the Senate into shared hands. The regular session is scheduled for Jan. 14 to April 28, 2013.

Some of the same money sources that were behind the failed California proposition have moved on to Washington State. These include Hoffman Estates, IL-based Mercola Health Resources and the Finland, MN-based Organic Consumers Association. Both have contributed $50,000 to the Washington I-522 campaign, which so far has raised just under $350,000, according to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.

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