Washington state voters reject labelling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients news
07 November 2013

Washington state voters yesterday rejected an initiative that would have required labelling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients.

The vote was 54.8 per cent opposed to labelling and 45.2 per cent in its favour.

In the event the initiative, called Initiative 522 had won, Washington would have become the first US state to require such labelling.

The initiative, which was the most expensive in state history, was largely fought by out-of-state interests.

According to The Seattle Times, Initiative 522 campaign set a record for fundraising, bringing in $22 million in donations. The newspaper added that only $550 came from Washington residents.

The top five contributors were the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences and Bayer CropScience, who opposed the labelling.

The largest donors to the pro-labelling campaign were California-based Dr Bronner's Magic Soaps and the Center for Food Safety in Washington, DC. The newspaper reported that the initiative in favour of labelling, garnered almost 30 per cent of its funding from individuals in Washington state.

Food industry ads claimed that the initiative would increase food prices. According to Brian Kennedy of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a food industry group based in Washington DC, labels would mislead consumers into thinking that products that contained genetically engineered ingredients were "somehow different, unsafe or unhealthy.''

The pro Initiative 522 campaigns emphasised consumers' right to know what was in their food.

Genetically engineered crops feature a gene from a different plant inserted into them to give them some ability they did not possess before.

The Washington vote was being closely followed around the country as over two dozen US states and the federal government wrestle with whether to make labelling mandatory.

"This is a clear victory for Washington consumers, taxpayers and family farmers across our state," Dana Bieber, spokeswoman for the anti Initiative 522, said in a statement Tuesday evening. "Washington voters have soundly rejected this badly written and deceptive initiative."

The measure would have been the first of its kind in the US, requiring labelling of foods that made with genetically altered crops as also labelling of genetically engineered seeds and seed products sold in the state.

The measure's supporters who claim it would help consumers make informed shopping choices, had not conceded defeat yesterday, pointing to unaccounted ballots through the vote-by-mail system in the state.

Delena Jones, campaign manager for 'Yes on 522' said they did not have a final tally of the votes adding there would be regular evening updates as counties reported voting results.

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Washington state voters reject labelling of foods containing genetically modified ingredients