Washington state voters Tuesday could pass the nation’s first law requiring the labeling of genetically modified (GMO) foods, but if the latest survey is correct it could be a nail biter.
The proposal is called Initiative 522 (I-522), and although proponents of GMO labeling laws are massive in number, the pockets of biotech giants like Monsanto run deep. The battle over whether or not residents will soon be made aware of the food they are buying will likely rage on until the final ballots are counted.
The most recent poll, by the survey firm Elway, showed I-522 leading in October, 46-42. That’s a significant shift from just one month earlier, when I-522 led by a much larger 66-21 percent.
The difference? Ads by Monsanto and mega corporations appear to have changed some minds.
No on I-522 spokeswoman Dana Bieber said, “It’s obvious that the more people know about I-522 the less they like it. Voters are seeing through the proponent’s misleading initiative and misleading campaign.”
As previously reported by Off The Grid News, Monsanto – which produces GMO seeds — once supported labeling genetically modified food during an advertising campaign in Europe.
Yes on I-522 spokeswoman Elizabeth Larter said that while the GMO labeling initiative campaign has been outspent for many weeks now, I-522 is still winning in the state’s vote-by-mail election.
“Clearly, Washingtonians are embracing the right to know what’s in their groceries,” Larter added.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association was pressured to reveal donations made in the Washington GMO labeling fight and has reportedly donated $7.5 million to opponents of the genetically modified food labeling initiative. Among that $7.5 million, PepsiCo donated $1.6 million to the “no” side, while Coca-Cola and Nestle each gave $1 million. Other prominent big donors trying to defeat I-522: General Mills ($600,000), Campbell Soup ($265,000), Hershey ($248,000) and Kellogg ($220,000).
The last-minute momentum change is reminiscent of the GMO labeling battle in California. Support was initially high for the genetically engineered food designation initiative – until biotech giants and food industry manufacturers got involved with TV ads. That 2012 initiative eventually lost.
Commercials and print ads opposing GMO labeling in Washington claim that the initiative is misleading and would drive up food prices – claims with the “yes” side strongly disagrees.
The Elway poll also noted that support for I-522 is highest among women, voters age 35 and younger, and among voters in the Seattle area.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson had to sue the Grocery Manufacturers Association in order to get them to release I-522 donation details. Ferguson believes the refusal to release the donations violated the state’s disclosure laws.
The attorney general also had this to say about the release of Washington GMO labeling campaign finance reports:
The people of Washington demand transparency. I’m pleased the GMA board recognized their responsibility to disclose the name of companies who contributed to opposing Initiative 522, and the amount of their contributions.
President Obama has been accused of reversing his position on the issue. During a campaign stop in Iowa, then Senator Barack Obama garnered massive applause from the crowd when he said that Americans have the right to know what is in our food. The lack of support for GMO labeling laws by the Obama administration leave many wondering if the plethora of former Monsanto executives in key positions as the USDA, FDA,and EPA have played a role in the president’s decision to disregard the campaign promise.
How do you feel about GMO labeling?