An initiative that would have made Washington state the first to require the labeling of genetically modified (GMO) food appears headed for defeat, a stunning turnaround for a proposal that led in polls by double digits just a month ago.
Initiative 522 trailed 55-45 percent and faced a 100,000 vote deficit according to the secretary of state’s website, although the final results might not be known for several days because of the state’s vote-by-mail election. Voters could place ballots in the mail even on Election Day, and as many as 300,000 votes in King County – which I-522 supporters counted as a stronghold – had yet to be counted.
Opponents of I-522 said they had won, but supporters of I-522 said it was still too close to call.
“Thank you to everyone who voted, volunteered, donated, and supported this effort,” Delana Jones, campaign manager for Yes on 522, said in a statement. “Due to Washington State’s vote-by-mail system, we don’t have a final tally of the votes tonight.”
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Initiative 522 led in only four counties, according to The Seattle Times: King, Whatcom, Jefferson and San Juan.
If Initiative 522 is defeated, it will be a repeat of what took place in California exactly one year ago: Both GMO labeling proposals built a big early lead and then, facing an influx of advertising money from major corporations, fell behind late in the race.
The 353,000 Washingtonians who signed petitions to get I-522 on the ballot apparently could not make up for a 3-to-1 deficit in advertising funds. As previously reported by Off The Grid News, some of the nation’s most well-known corporations donated to the “no” side: PepsiCo $1.6 million, Coca-Cola and Nestle $1 million each, General Mills $600,000, Campbell Soup $265,000, Hershey $248,000 and Kellogg $220,000. That money was included in a Grocery Manufacturers Association fund of at least $7.5 million that flooded the airwaves with ads throughout the month of October and early November.
Monsanto, which makes GMO seeds, donated at least $5.3 million to defeat I-522.
The “no” side raised about $22 million to the $8 million raised by supporters. All total, 64 countries require GMO labeling.
“The facts show that I-522 was a badly written initiative that deserved to be voted down,” Dana Bieber, spokeswoman for the No on I-522 campaign, told The Times. “We knew from the beginning that the more voters knew about Initiative 522, the less they’re going to like it.”
Yes on 522 ran on a simple message: Consumers have a right to know what’s in their food. But that message was drowned out by ads from the other side.
“Win or lose, this is a long war,” said David Bronner, CEO of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, which supported I-522. “Labeling is inevitable.”
Supporters of labeling in Oregon may try to place a similar proposal on the 2014 ballot in that state.
Meanwhile, a controversial gun control proposal was approved by voters of Sunnyvale, California. As previously reported by Off The Grid News, the new law – if it goes into effect – will require gun buyers to provide a thumbprint. Known as Measure C, it also would require gun owners to report firearm theft to the police within 48 hours, lock up guns at home, and get rid of ammunition magazines that hold more than 10 rounds. Gun dealers would also have to keep records of ammunition sales. It passed, 66-34 percent. The National Rifle Association had said it would file suit, claiming the proposal was unconstitutional.