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WashPIRG Advocate Micaela Preskill issued the following statement today regarding the outcome of Initiative 522:
“Washington voters failed to pass I-522, which would have made Washington the first state in the nation to require manufacturers to label food made with genetically modified ingredients.
“The failure of I-522 is a setback for consumers in Washington. Labeling is a basic consumer right. We all agree that we have the right to know how much fat, sugar or sodium is in our food. We also have the right to know whether the food we buy at the grocery store is genetically engineered. If I-522 had passed, Washington would have joined 64 countries that already require GMO labeling.
“The story of I-522 is a modern-day version of David v. Goliath – but with the wrong outcome. By Election Day, opponents to the law had out-fundraised supporters by a three to one margin. With more than a week to go before Election Day, the ‘No on 522’ campaign had already broken the record for the most money raised by any initiative campaign in Washington state history.
“We know that Washingtonians want the right to know what’s in their food. Polls show the public overwhelmingly supports GMO labeling. Five months before Election Day, polling showed that 66% of Washington voters supported labeling. National polls have shown up to 96% of the public want to see labels on GMOs at the grocery store.
“In the end, 49% of Washingtonians supported the initiative. Support started to erode as the ‘No on 522’ campaign ramped up their negative advertising. Out-of-state companies spent millions of dollars opposing I-522 through misleading attacks, successfully convincing many Washington voters that the law is overly complicated.
“Just a handful of special interest corporations fueled the ‘No on 522’ campaign, and some of the largest supporters tried to keep themselves hidden from the public eye. The Grocery Manufacturers Association spent $11 million, and for many months leading up the election, it funneled money from other multi-national corporations to oppose the initiative. The GMA finally revealed its financers after Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued it for campaign disclosure violations. Household brands like Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills, NestleUSA and Conagra Foods were contributing to the ‘No on 522’ campaign through the GMA and hoping to get away with it without their customers finding out. Other major funders of the opposition were Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer.
“I-522 is a disappointing setback for Washingtonians and consumers all across the country who are fighting for the right to know what is in their food, but the fight for labeling GMOs will continue.”
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