Yes on I-522 campaign: Fight for GMO labeling isn’t over, we’ll be back in 2016.

By Elaine WATSON

- Last updated on GMT

Yes on I-522 campaign: Fight for GMO labeling isn’t over
UPDATED -The campaign urging voters to say ‘YES’ to Washington State’s GMO labeling initiative 522 has acknowledged that it will not pass, but said the latest results show the tally was so close that had more young ‘progressive’ residents turned out to vote, victory would have been theirs.

With 1.71m votes counted as of Nov 14 at 5pm pacific time and the results showing the 'YES' campaign has 48.59% and the 'NO' campaign has 51.41% of the vote, the YES campaign issued a statement on its website saying: ”While it is unfortunate I-522 did not pass, it has set the stage for victory in 2016.”

Yes to I-522 co-chair Trudy Bialic said the turnout was “the lowest ever recorded, skewing older and more conservative, and away from younger, more progressive voters driving the GE labeling movement​”.

She added: “Despite being outspent 3-to-1, we are projecting winning 49% of the vote. We are disappointed with the results, but the polling is clear that Washingtonians support labeling and believe they have a right to know.

“This fight isn’t over. We will be back in 2016 to challenge and defeat the out-of-state corporations standing in the way of our right to know.”

Just label it logo

The ‘off-year’ election results “depict how viable a Washington state GMO labeling ballot measure would be in a presidential election cycle with much higher, younger, and more progressive voter turnout​”, said the campaign.

Just Label it: Mars, Smithfield and Unilever sided with consumers

Just Label It executive director, Scott Faber added: “The results in Washington state do not change the fundamental fact that consumers deserve the right to know about the presence of GE ingredients in their food.  

"Just Label It will continue to fight to give American consumers the same rights as consumers in 64 other nations via a federal solution requiring mandatory labeling, while at the same time continuing to work with state legislators to give this basic right to consumers. "

He added: "We welcome the opportunity to work with food industry leaders and the FDA to devise a federal mandatory labeling system that alerts consumers to the presence of GE ingredients in their food. And, we are pleased that companies such as Mars, Smithfield and Unilever sided with consumers by refusing to contribute to the food industry's $22m efforts to deny consumers basic facts about their food.​”

Attorney: I-522 would have been subject to legal challenges

David Biderman Perkins Coie
David Biderman: I-522 would have been subject to a number of legal challenges had it passed

However, David Biderman, a partner in Perkins Coie’s Consumer Class Action Defense practice, told FoodNavigator-USA that the defeat of I-522 was "positive for food companies and consumers"​, adding that had it passed, "there would otherwise be conflicting labeling regulations and a patchwork quilt of compliance obligations".

He said: "In addition, it would be subject to a number of legal challenges both federal preemption and constitutional."

While those supporting labeling argue that defeat has only strengthened their resolve, the fact I-522 did not pass was likely to "reduce citizen initiatives" ​and " take some of the steam out of the legislative efforts, such as in Connecticut", ​predicted Biderman.

Meanwhile, federal labeling proposals introduced to Congress in April did "not appear to be gaining traction", ​he observed.

"All of this makes sense, as there is no need for such labeling, and that is consistent with FDA determination that there is no material difference between GMO and non GMO foods."

Click here​ to keep track of the vote on I-522. To date, seven counties voted YES: King, Thurston, Jefferson, Clallam, Whatcom, Snohomish and Kitsap.

Click here​ to see what the American Herbal Products Association thinks should happen next.

Click here​ to see what the lawyers say.

I-522 results nov 14 at 5pm-PST
The I-522 results as of November 14th, 5pm pacific time

Related topics: Regulation, Going non-GMO

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