The Politics Blog

More details emerging on I-522 and the sure-to-be-costly fight over GMO foods

OlympianAugust 12, 2013 

Whole Foods is the first supermarket chain to require its suppliers to put GMO labels on their products, a mandate that must be met by 2018. (Carline Jean/Sun Sentinel/MCT)

CARLINE JEAN — MCT

Initiative 522 would require labeling on foods showing if they are genetically modified products or contain such genetically engineered ingredients. The Seattle Times’ Melissa Allison went over some of the arguments on both sides in a Sunday report that noted California's big, similar ballot fight last year.

An excerpt:

“There’s a lot of uneasiness among consumers on the topic,” said Amy Sousa, managing consultant at the consumer research firm Hartman Group in Bellevue. “They don’t like the sound of it but have a difficult time articulating exactly why.”

That may mean the public is susceptible to high-cost ad campaigns. We reported last month that a lot of out-of-state money is lining up on both sides.  The high-cost battle is shaping up one year after the food industry and allies raised nearly $46 million to defeat a California labeling measure by less than 3 percentage points.

Jerry Cornfield of The Herald in Everett freshened up the picture of dollars flowing into the campaigns with a piece on Sunday predicting the two sides will end up spending more than $10 million this year in Washington. A second piece in The Herald itemized the high-spending initiative campaigns of recent years – including last year’s battle over same-sex marriage that drew nearly $14.8 million in favor and just under $3 million opposed.

Cornfield reported on Sunday:

As of this week, the Yes on I-522 Committee had raised nearly $2.5 million, according to the state Public Disclosure Commission. Six other political committees backing the initiative have pulled in another $1 million, though half of that was spent getting the signatures to reach the ballot. Opponents had raised $951,000 as of this week, with a quarter of the total coming from Monsanto.

"California was a frustrating fight. As a movement, we learned a lot," said David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps.

The organic soap company has contributed $700,000 to back the initiative, which is roughly $150,000 more than it gave to the Prop. 37 campaign. And starting next month, labels urging support of the measure will be placed on eight soap fragrances sold in Washington.

One poll released last month by the Yes on 522 campaign showed voter support for labeling.

But election day is Nov. 5 and almost all of the campaign is yet to happen.  

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