GMO label measure falling short

Capital Press

Washington's ballot initiative to require labels on some foods containing genetically modified ingredients was failing as the vote count continues.

Washington’s Initiative 522, a proposal to require labels on some food containing genetically modified ingredients, appears to be failing as the statewide vote count continues.

Reports from the Secretary of State’s office Wednesday showed 54.9 percent of voters opposing the measure and 45.1 percent supporting it. The 1,002,349 ballots counted by 4 p.m. represent 25.6 percent of registered voters in the state.

Dana Bieber, coalition spokeswoman for the No on 522 campaign, said her camp was “delighted.”

“We are confident we have won,” she said. “This coalition of thousands of farmers, doctors and consumers rightly gave it a resounding ‘no’ vote.”

Only four Washington counties cast a majority of ballots in support of the labels. One was King County, which includes Seattle, where as-yet uncounted votes had the potential to change the results. The 262,790 votes counted there were running about 55.8 to 44.2 in support of the initiative. Those ballots represent about 22.3 percent of the county’s 1.2 million voters.

Elizabeth Larter, spokeswoman for the Yes on 522 campaign, said that with hundreds of thousands of votes statewide yet to be counted, supporters of GMO labeling “will wait and see just like everyone else.”

“We are hopeful, but just like in previous years and ballot measures, King County tends to vote late,” she said.

During the days leading up to Tuesday’s election, surveys in Seattle showed strong support for the measure.

The other counties with a majority of votes supporting the measure were Jefferson, San Juan and Whatcom, also in the northwestern part of the state.

Counties in Eastern Washington had the highest percentage of opposition to the measure, with as much as 82 percent against to 18 percent in favor in Garfield County.

Mailed-in ballots, which had to be postmarked no later than Nov. 5, will continue to be counted until the election is certified Nov. 26.

Larter said even if the Washington initiative ultimately fails, the issue is still active in Oregon and other states.

“This is just one part of a longer journey in the GMO labeling movement,” she said. “People are passionate about what’s in their groceries.”

State Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee and co-chairman of the “Yes” campaign, said 90 percent of Washington residents now know what genetically modified foods are. “The movement continues,” he said.

At the No on 522 headquarters, Bieber said, “Washington gave it a resounding no. For other states, I don’t know. When Washington voters had the facts about it, they rejected it. California voters did the same last year and Oregon before that.”

The initiative would require a special label on some foods that have ingredients that have been genetically modified. Genetically modified crops, also called genetically modified organisms or genetically engineered crops, have been grown around the nation since 1996. They allow farmers to use less water, fewer pesticides and offer increased crop yields.


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