Polls show tight race on Washington GM labeling initiative

Polls show tight race on Washington GM labeling initiative

Millions being spent for and against Washington state ballot measure on mandatory labeling of GM foods.


HEADING into another pivotal state vote on labeling food that contains genetically modified (GM) ingredients, Washington voters remain closely divided on whether or not to support the measure, which is set to be on the Nov. 5 ballot in the state.

In the past month, support for Initiative 522 (I-522) mandatory GM food labeling dropped 20 points, while opposition increased by 21 points, including an increase from 11% to 33% who said they would "definitely" vote against it (Figure), according to a new survey released by The Elway Poll, an independent, nonpartisan analysis of public opinion trends in Washington and the Northwest.

Elway reported that the reasons for voters' positions indicated the impact of the opponents' advertising. Opponents of I-522 have a slight advertising advantage.

The top three reasons volunteered by those voting "no" were themes stressed in opponents' ads, Elway reported. This includes concerns that the measure is unnecessary (17%), would cause food costs to rise (16%) or is poorly written, with too many confusing exceptions (14%), as shown in the Table.

Supporters focused on the right to know what they are eating. The poll showed that 69% gave a variation of that reason, with 41% saying they want to know what is in their food, 17% saying consumers have a right to know and another 11% just saying food should be labeled.

The poll stated that voter turnout could be decisive, as usual in off-year elections. The I-522 measure was trailing 46-44% among "perfect voters" who voted in all four of the last four elections. However, it was leading 49-37% among voters who have voted less than half of the time.

Opposition to the Washington state ballot initiative to require labels on products containing GM crops has grown exponentially over the past two months.

I-522 is a sibling to California's Proposition 37, which lost in 2012 by a narrow margin of 48.6% to 51.4%.

Many of the major contributors in this year's race also contributed to committees for or against Proposition 37, MapLight reported. It also noted that a recent spike in opposition dollars echoes last year, when the opposition to Proposition 37 bankrolled a media blitz in the final stretch.

Opponents have raised more than $17 million in funds, compared to the $5.25 million from supporters.

MapLight reported that the Grocery Manufacturers Assn. (GMA) has given the most to the opposition — $7.225 million from May 11, 2012, through Oct. 2, 2013 — followed by major seed companies Monsanto ($4.8 million), DuPont Pioneer ($3.4 million), Bayer CropScience and Dow AgroSciences (both at $591,654).

Washington's attorney general filed a complaint against GMA related to the state campaign disclosure law and the organization's financial support of the "No on 522" campaign.

In response, GMA said it plans to establish a political committee and file reports with the state's Public Disclosure Commission "in an effort to provide Washington voters with full transparency about GMA's funding for the 'No on 522' campaign."

Polls show tight race on Washington GM labeling initiative

Reasons to vote for and against I-522



41%: I want to know what I'm eating

17%: Not needed

17%: Consumers have right to know

16%: Food costs will rise

11%: Food should be labeled

14%: Poor written/many exemptions

4%: GM food bad for health

12%: Oppose government regulations

4%: I don't want to eat GM food

7%: GM food is safe

Source: The Elway Poll.



Volume:85 Issue:44

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