Business

Highly Contested GMO Labeling Measure Trails in Washington State

Closely watched after the ballot initiative racked up a huge number of campaign contributions on both sides of the issue, grocery and biotech groups are claiming victory against a Washington state effort to label genetically modified foods. Anti-GMO groups are still holding out hope.

Closely watched after the ballot initiative racked up a huge number of campaign contributions on both sides of the issue, grocery and biotech groups are claiming victory against a Washington state effort to label genetically modified foods. Anti-GMO groups are still holding out hope.

For now, at least, it appears GMO labels will stay off products sold in Washington state.

That’s thanks to the likely defeat of a ballot initiative to label genetically modified products, a proposal that drew much attention in recent weeks after the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) faced scrutiny from the state’s attorney general over its heavy spending to fight the measure. The group wasn’t alone—roughly $30 million was spent by the two sides. And one of those sides is claiming victory, while another is still waiting for the final tally. More details:

Biotech group cheers results: The Biotechnology Industry Association, a major backer of the No on 522 campaign, said voters “rightly” rejected the initiative. “Just like 27 million voters in California and Oregon, Washington voters saw how this burdensome and deceptive labeling scheme would have created more state bureaucracy, imposed new costs and burdens on local farmers and businesses, and increased food prices for Washington families,” the group’s President and CEO Jim Greenwood stated. The group emphasized that it would continue to oppose such labeling initiatives, but that it would also focus on educational efforts, such as its GMO Answers.

Anti-GMO groups hold out hope: Although the measure, which faces a major uphill battle for victory, has yet to be conceded by the Yes on 522 campaign, the campaign plans to call the results when mail-in ballots have been received. Campaign Manager Delana Jones says as many as 300,000 mail-in ballots need to be counted in heavily populated King County, where Seattle is located. “Thank you to everyone who voted, volunteered, donated, and supported this effort,” Jones said in a statement. “Due to Washington State’s vote-by-mail system, we don’t have a final tally of the votes tonight. Please stay tuned for more information in the following days. We’ll have regular evening updates as counties report voting results.” The campaign counts groups such as the Natural Products Association, the Center for Food Safety, the Sierra Club, and the Nutritional Therapy Association as its sponsors.

GMA pushes for federal solution: In a statement on the victory over I-522, GMA, which had spent more than $11 million campaigning against the ballot measure, suggested the issue shouldn’t be decided at the state level. “Because a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling laws would be confusing and costly to consumers,” the group stated, “GMA will advocate for a federal solution that will protect consumers by ensuring that the FDA, America’s leading food safety authority, sets national standards for the safety and labeling of products made with GMO ingredients. Our country’s labeling laws have been and should continue to be based on health, safety and nutritional content.” One such bill is currently sitting in committee in Congress.

Could such battles drag on? This wasn’t the first political battleground on the issue (California, for example, had a costly battle in 2012), and it may not be the last. Some experts suggest that the costliness of the battles could eventually lead to weariness from industry groups. “Sooner or later, one of these is going to pass. It’s only a matter of time. At some point the industry is going to get tired of pouring this kind of money into these campaigns,” said one expert, New York University’s Marion Nestle, to USA Today.

Final results are expected to be certified in the state in December, though the Associated Press called the race in favor of the opposition last night.

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a senior editor for Associations Now, a former newspaper guy, and a man who is dangerous when armed with a good pun. MORE

Got an article tip for us? Contact us and let us know!


Comments