Washington State Initiative 522 Fails

Photo by Alexis Baden-Mayer. Some rights reserved.

Photo by Alexis Baden-Mayer. Some rights reserved.

Here in Washington State, the election results are in: Initiative 522 has failed. Even if you live outside Washington, it’s likely you may be familiar with the issue at hand, given that the bill has received some national attention: a passing vote on I-522 would have made Washington the first state to require mandatory labeling of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) on packaged foods. There has been a stiff debate running here in Washington over the past few weeks – supporters of the bill claim that GMOs are harmful and that labeling foods with genetically modified ingredients will allow consumers to make smarter decisions, while its detractors claim the science on GMOs is shaky, that GMOs are actually no more harmful than non-GE crops, and that the misleading labels would cost the average consumer an additional $490 a year. There’s even a sizable faction of liberal voters who support the idea of labeling genetically engineered products in general but believe that I-522 was poorly written and that the labels themselves would be too prominent.

Now we also have the figures on how much money was spent in support of both sides of the bill. Those of us Seattlites who shop at Whole Foods have seen plenty of “Yes on I-522” marketing around town, but given the lack of visible “No on I-522” support around town, its a bit surprising that the bill failed by such a large margin (54.8% opposed, 45.2% in favor). However, we now have more information about just where exactly the money behind “No on I-522” came from, and the results are eye-opening if hardly surprising: of the $22,000,000 spent on the campaign against the bill, only $550 (.000025% of the grand total) was raised in Washington state itself. The rest came, understandably, from corporations whose products would be effective by the labeling initiative. Chief among them: Monsanto, the oft-criticized biotech giant, which donated $5.4 million to the cause, while Dupont (the manufacturer of many a GMO seed) donated $3.9 million, and PepsiCo gave $2.4 million. That all helps explain why the victory party for “No on I-522” last night appeared to be something of a ghost town.

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