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The Seattle Times political team explores national, state and local politics.

November 5, 2013 at 7:17 AM

Voters rejecting initiative to label genetically engineered food

Sen. Maralyn Chase shows the first election results of I-522 to Dr. Bronner's Magic Soap CEO David Bronner  CQ during the Yes on I-522 campaign party in Seattle's Pioneer Square neighborhood. "It does not look good for us," said Chase. "But we've won the hearts and minds of the people. We're not done."  (Photo by Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

Sen. Maralyn Chase shows the first election results of I-522 to Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap CEO David Bronner CQ during the Yes on I-522 campaign party in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. “It does not look good for us,” said Chase. “But we’ve won the hearts and minds of the people. We’re not done.” (Photo by Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)

UPDATE, 9:40 p.m.: Washington voters Tuesday were rejecting a measure that would have made the state the first in the nation to require labeling of genetically engineered foods.

With all but one county in Eastern Washington reporting, the measure trailed 45 percent to 55 percent —  a margin that appeared impossible to overcome.

“It does not look good for us,” conceded Sen. Maralyn Chase, D-Shoreline, a labeling supporter. “But we’ve won the hearts and the minds of the people.”

The measure was leading in only four counties — King, Whatcom, Jefferson and San Juan — but not by enough to counter the heavy “No” vote in other parts of the state.

But  pro-Initiative 522 campaign manager Delana Jones   was not ready to concede Tuesday evening, pointing out that many ballots remained uncounted.  “It’s too close to call,” she said. “It’s going to be a long few days as we continue to count ballots.”

The initiative’s biggest financial backer, CEO David Bronner of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, said the battle to require labeling nationwide will continue.

“Win or lose, this is a long war,” he said. “Labeling is inevitable.”

State Rep. Cary Condotta, R-East Wenatchee and a co-chair of the ”Yes” campaign, says an upside of the vote is that now 90 percent of Washington residents know what genetically engineered foods are. “The movement continues,” he said.

Initiative opponents had no initial reaction to the vote.

UPDATE, 8:55 p.m.: Voters on Tuesday were rejecting an initiative that would label genetically engineered food.

With all but one county – Stevens — reporting their vote counts Tuesday night, I-522 trailed 45 percent to 55 percent .

The initiative led only in King, Whatcom, Jefferson and San Juan counties.

UPDATE, 8:20 p.m.:  With 20 counties reporting– including King, Pierce, Spokane and Thurston — the initiative that would label genetically engineered food was trailing 47 percent to 53 percent. More results are coming.

ORIGINAL POST: Washington voters will decide today whether to require labeling of genetically engineered food.

The measure would take effect July 1, 2015, and require labels on the front of food packaging. Genetically engineered produce and meat from GE animals and fish would also be labeled as such.

Passage of the initiative would make Washington the first state to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. Maine and Connecticut recently passed labeling laws, but they won’t go into effect until neighboring states opt in as well.

Nearly 50 other nations already require genetically engineered ingredients be disclosed on food labels.

The initiative campaign put Washington at center stage in debates over both genetic engineering and the role of out-of-state funding in elections.

With $22 million in donations, the “No” campaign set a record for fundraising by one side in an initiative battle in Washington. Only $550 came from Washington residents. The biggest donors were the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) and agribusinesses including Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer and Bayer CropScience.

Almost 70 percent of the funding for the “Yes” campaign also came from out-of-state businesses and organizations, led by California-based Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. But supporters also included about 10,000 individuals, many of them Washington residents, who gave amounts ranging from $20,000 to $2.

0 Comments | More in 2014 elections | Topics: GMO, Initiative 522

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