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Washington State Voters Narrowly Defeat GMO Labeling

November 14, 2013
by Candy & Snack TODAY

Seattle — Ballot Initiative 522, which would have required labels on food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), was defeated 52 to 48 percent, according to final results posted by the Office of the Secretary of State.

With less than one million votes counted on election night, those opposed to the measure led 54.8 percent to 45.2 percent. However, because the state accepts mail-in ballots postmarked November 5, final results were delayed.

I-522 had strong support earlier this autumn, with more than 65 percent of voters claiming they would support the measure on election day. However, as November 6 neared, the lead held by proponents of the bill eroded as voters heard television, radio and newspaper advertisements warning about the negative impacts of the initiative.

The food industry spent approximately $22 million in the fight against I-522, while proponents raised around $7.8 million. Had the measure passed, it would have mandated GMO labeling on thousands of foods and created new recordkeeping requirements for confectioners, farmers and manufacturers within and outside of the state.

A survey of actual and likely Washington voters conducted by television station KING5 and Survey USA found 52 percent thought passage of I-522 would raise food prices, as argued by opponents in the food and biotech industries. Although 88 percent of those canvassed agreed that consumers have the right to know what their food contains, only 40 percent said they think GMOs are a health hazard and 30 percent said they don’t know enough about GMOs to have an opinion about them.

Earlier this year, Connecticut and Maine passed bills requiring foods containing GMOs to be labeled as such, but both require passage of similar legislation by neighboring states before they can be enacted. In 2012 a ballot issue similar to I-522, Proposition 37, failed in California. Currently, 23 states have legislation pending on GMO labeling.

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