Washington voters appear to be evenly divided about whether their state will become the first in the nation to require special labels on some foods containing genetically modified ingredients.
With the Nov. 5 election nearing, a new poll shows the race is too close to call. Stuart Elway, of Elway Research in Seattle, said supporters lead opponents by four percentage points, which is within the poll’s margin of error. Six weeks ago, he said, supporters led by 40 percentage points.
Those who indicated in the poll that they were against the initiative cited arguments they saw in television ads, Elway said.
“Certainly the amount of money, the amount of exposure that this issue has in television ads has made a difference,” he said.
As of Oct. 30, more than $30 million has been contributed to groups supporting or opposing I-522.
According to Washington’s Public Disclosure Commission, “No on 522” has received $22 million in contributions and has spent $20.1 million — $13.5 million of that on advertising.
Eight committees that support the initiative have received a total of $8.4 million in contributions and spent $8.2 million — $5.2 million of that on advertising.
The influx of money has set a record for Washington elections. A similar labeling proposal in California in 2012 saw more than $55 million contributed, with about $5 coming in against the issue for every $1 in support.
Most of the millions contributed to oppose I-522 have come from major agricultural companies. Half of the total has come through the Grocery Manufacturers of America.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued GMA on Oct. 16, accusing it of improperly collecting money by shielding the identity of the individual contributors.
GMA subsequently identified about 3 dozen companies, but Ferguson said Oct. 29 that he will still seek penalties.
The association said in a news release: “GMA, in cooperation with the Washington attorney general and Public Disclosure Commission, has made public filings that have now resolved technical issues of ongoing full compliance with Washington election law. GMA hopes to reasonably resolve the remaining claims in the attorney general’s court filing in the near future.”