Proponents of mandatory labeling of some genetically modified foods have conceded defeat.
Initiative 522 would have required labels on some food that has genetically modified ingredients. Other foods and drinks would not have been labeled. On Nov. 14, the Secretary of State’s office had tallied 831,269 votes for the initiative and 879,482 against, a difference of 48,213 with 36,251 ballots still to be counted.
Those numbers represent 48.59 percent of Washington voters supporting the measure and 51.41 percent opposing. Mailed-in ballots will continue to be counted until the election is certified Nov. 26.
“We are disappointed with the results, but the polling is clear that Washingtonians support labeling and believe they have a right to know,” Trudy Bialic, co-chair for Yes on 522, said. “This fight isn’t over. We will be back in 2016 to challenge and defeat the out-of-state corporations standing in the way of our right to know.”
In a news release, Yes on 522 blamed “out-of-state pesticide and junk food industries” for funding “a campaign of lies that deceived Washington voters in this election, leaving consumers in the dark about what is in the groceries they are buying and eating.”
Polling early in the campaign showed a majority of voters in favor of the initiative, but as opponents’ advertising geared up, the support diminished to the point where it was a toss-up in the week before Election Day.
“I am entirely proud of the campaign we ran,” Dana Bieber, coalition spokeswoman for the No on 522 campaign, said. “It was factual and respectable. It was clear from the first day — the more voters knew, the less they would like it.”
Opponents of the labeling initiative poured more than $21 million into the campaign, including in-kind contributions. I-522 supporters poured in more than $8 million, including in-kind contributions.
Bialic said the election turnout of 44 percent is the lowest ever. That skewed the results toward older, more conservative voters and away from younger, more progressive voters, she said.
“They keep coming up with excuses,” Bieber said. “The problem was their initiative. It was flawed, and it increases the cost of groceries.
“The Legislature had a shot at this, and neither house approved it,” she said. “Not not only the people, but the Legislature has said no.”
Bialic said the results show how viable the ballot measure would be during a presidential election cycle, when more people might vote.
“While it is unfortunate I-522 did not pass, it has set the stage for victory in 2016,” she said.