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Washington State’s GMO Labeling Initiative Appears Headed for Defeat

With all of Washington state’s counties reporting in late Tuesday night, voters appear to be turning down ballot initiative I-522, which would require labeling food made from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

The complete vote results may not be available until December, but nearly 1 million voters have already turned down the initiative by 55 percent to 45 percent. Washington’s elections are decided entirely by a mail-in ballot system, and so it may take several more weeks to tally up the last of the votes.

Voters favored “Yes on 522″ in only four of Washington state’s 39 counties: King, Jefferson, San Juan and Whatcom.

If passed, the measure would take effect July 1, 2015.

After a similar measure lost in California in 2012, Washington has been positioned to be the first state to pass a labeling law without any conditions before implementation. Labeling laws have previously passed in Connecticut and Maine on the condition that the laws would not go into effect until at least five states have passed similar laws in total. In Connecticut’s case, one of those other states must also share its border.

Labels would go on the front of food packaging identifying them as having been made with GMOs. The law relates equally to produce and meat that has been genetically engineered in some way.

If voters were to approve I-522, the measure would have a huge impact on the food industry, potentially paving the way for a national GMO label. Currently, 64 countries around the world require labeling of genetically engineered foods, according to Just Label It.

The “No on 522″ campaign set a state record for fundraising on one side of an initiative in Washington state, with $22 million in donations. Only $550 of that money came from Washington residents, according to the Seattle Times.

On the No side, $11 million came from the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, which was sued by the Washington State Attorney General’s Office for failing to disclose its campaign donors, which include Pepsi, Coca-Cola and Nestlé. Other “No on 522″ donors include biotech companies such as Monsanto ($5 million) and DuPont Pioneer ($4 million)

About 70 percent of the $8.4 million raised for “Yes on 522″ has also come from out of state. Top “Yes on 522″ donors include Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps ($2.2 million), the Organic Consumers Fund ($740,000), and the Center for Food Safety ($455,000).

Approximately 15,000 Washington residents also contributed money to the Yes campaign.

An Oct. 21 Elway poll found 46 percent of Washington voters in favor of GMO labeling, 42 percent against, and 12 percent undecided, with a 5-point margin of error.

Roughly 70 percent of processed foods in grocery stores contain genetically modified ingredients. A full 90 percent of corn grown in the U.S. comes from genetically modified seeds.

Some opponents of GMO foods question their safety, saying that they have not been on the market long enough to know the potential long-term risks. But many scientists and prominent health agencies have determined GMOs safe for consumption, including the World Health Organization, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the American Medical Association.

© Food Safety News
  • BamaLori

    This is REALLY sad, you let them scare you to death over the threat of raising the price of food if they have to label it… idiots, keep buying the junk and see how scary your future becomes. How could ANYONE vote down truth in labeling, I just don’t get it…

  • nosheeplehere

    The wolf will always attach the sheep even though the sheep outnumber the wolf. ALWAYS.

  • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers

    The issue is less about ‘safety’ and more about ensuring consumers are informed.

    What we have here is a group of powerful and wealthy corporations working to ensure that consumers are not informed. They could take this as an opportunity to educate people about the benefits they perceive behind genetically modified foods, but instead chose enforced ignorance.

    And I’m tired of American voters choosing ignorance.

  • mem_somerville

    I am really astonished about this. I thought if there was any place it would happen it would be the west coast and it would be much more skewed to “yes”.

    I was hoping that after Prop37 there would be a real reflection on what’s going on here for the voters. Instead it was just whaaaaaaaaaaaa teh TV ads….. Yes, there’s no doubt those carry some influence. But there may be something else about the message that’s not really working. Newspaper boards aren’t all that stupid. Perhaps it’s the flat-out wild claims that people are realizing aren’t true. The health claims, the zero cost. Maybe you really can’t BS the people as much as GMO haters think they can.

    Actually, they probably don’t know it’s BS. They talk only to themselves and within their little circle everyone agrees with each other.

    • http://burningbird.net Shelley Powers

      Newspaper boards are mighty dependent on the same companies that fight against GMO labeling.