- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A Washington initiative aimed at requiring the labeling of genetically modified foods was trailing Tuesday after a $30 million campaign food-fight.

Early election returns showed Initiative 522, which would have required labeling of genetically engineered foods, trailing by a margin of 45 to 55 percentage points with nearly 1 million votes cast.

The campaign, which may be the most expensive in state history, saw voters bombarded with competing television and radio ads for weeks, with most of the fundraising coming from out of state.

Proponents of the measure had hoped Washington would become the first state to require GMO food labeling, but they were met with stiff resistance from grocery and agriculture companies, led by the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Monsanto Co.

Washington is an entirely vote-by-mail state and ballots were required to be postmarked by Tuesday, meaning the final results may not be known for days. Still uncounted were an estimated 300,000 votes in King County, said supporters.

“This is far from over and we have several days of vote counting ahead,” said Delana Jones, campaign manager for the Yes on 522 campaign. “I’m cautiously optimistic.”

The measure’s foes ran ads saying that the proposal would cause food prices to spike. A survey taken by KING-TV in Seattle found that 52 percent of likely voters polled said they were concerned the measure would increase food costs, while 44 percent said they were not concerned.

The Yes on 522 campaign argued that the labeling was needed to provide transparency and help shoppers make informed decisions.

“We all have the right to know what is in the foods we buy and feed our families,” said Yes on 522 campaign literature.

The initiative would require seeds or foods containing GMO ingredients offered for retail sale to have a label starting in 2015. Foods exempt from the requirement include restaurant food, alcohol, certified organic food and medicine.

California voters narrowly rejected a similar measure in 2012.

This story was based in part on wire-service reports.

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