WASHINGTON state's ballot initiative to require the labeling of genetically modified (GM) food was rejected at the polls last Tuesday.
With almost 1 million votes counted, nearly 55% were against Initiative 522 (I-522). However, supporters said the vote was too close to call due to Washington's vote-by-mail system, which delayed a final tally for a few days.
A statement from Yes on 522 said, "The campaign remains confident that a majority of Washington voters support labeling of genetically engineered foods."
Supporters of I-522 had claimed that the initiative was needed to provide consumers with information on their food. However, the opposition said I-522 would have provided inaccurate and misleading information while increasing grocery costs.
"This is a clear victory for Washington consumers, taxpayers and family farmers across our state," Dana Bieber, spokesperson for No on 522, said in a statement after the vote.
Heading into election night, nearly $22 million had been raised in opposition to the cause, whereas nearly $8 million was raised by supporters of I-522.
California was the first state to attempt a similar initiative in 2012, although the vote there also failed 51.4% to 48.6%. Nearly $37 million was poured into that fight. An estimated 20 other states look to pass similar initiatives.
A statement from the Grocery Manufacturers Assn. (GMA), a major contributor to defeating I-522, said a 50-state patchwork of GM labeling laws would be "confusing and costly to consumers."
Pamela G. Bailey, GMA president and chief executive officer, said, "GMA will advocate for a federal solution that will protect consumers by ensuring that the (Food & Drug Administration) ... sets national standards for the safety and labeling of products made with GM ingredients. Our country's labeling laws have been and should continue to be based on health, safety and nutritional content."