In a closely fought battle, voters in Washington state have decided not to label Genetically Modified Foods. Initiative 522 appears to have lost by a margin of 45% in favor of labeling and 55% against. In early September, polls showed support for labeling to be ahead by 45%, that number quickly dwindled after a $22 million advertising campaign against the measure was launched by General Mills, Nestle, PepsiCo, Monsanto, DuPont and others.
Voter approval would be a significant setback for the alliance of large seed companies and mass-market food producers that have opposed such “right to know” legislation elsewhere. Last November, for example, many of the same opponents fighting Initiative 522 spent $46 million to defeat California’s Proposition 37, a measure similar to Washington’s.
“The vote was close in California,” says DeFazio ([D] represents the people of Oregon’s Fourth Congressional District). “There are other states considering similar legislation. If it passes in Washington State, I think other states are gonna move forward and pass more of these laws.”
Such a hodgepodge of GE-labeling laws, he says, would create marketplace bedlam as producers scrambled to meet disparate requirements of multiple states. And that situation, he adds, could impel Congress to finally pass a national GMO-labeling law such as his Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, to which DeFazio has recruited 48 supporters in the House.