Ag Policy Blog
Chris Clayton DTN Ag Policy Editor

Sunday 11/03/13

Agribusinesses Battle Biotech Labeling in Washington State

On Tuesday, the latest battle in biotech food labeling will play out at the ballot in Washington state. Voters in Washington will decide on Initiative 522, a ballot measure that would require clear and conspicuous labels on foods containing ingredients from genetically-engineered crops.

Regardless of the final vote, the fight over biotech food labeling is getting expensive for food companies and agribusinesses. MapLight, a group that reports on money and politics, cites that opponents have donated $22 million to defeat the measure. Virtually all of that money came from fewer than 60 donors. The top two contributors were Monsanto, with $5.37 million contributed, and DuPont Pioneer with $3.88 million.

Supporters of I-522 have raised about $7.7 million from more than 10,500 contributors. The top contributor is Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps with $1.84 million contributed.

A year ago, a similar proposition in California to label biotech food was defeated 51% to 49% with 12.4 million votes cast. Opponents of the California measure were largely the same group of agribusinesses and food processors. They spent $45 million in that campaign.

A poll reported last week by Food Safety News showed the Washington ballot measure was seeing support erode. Similar to California's proposition, Food Safety News reported that the Washington measure is now a statistical dead heat.

The I-522 opponents have gotten some support from the state's newspapers. The Seattle Times, most notably, came out in early October against the measure. The Times said, "Shoppers want useful information not scare tactics." The Times called the bill a "clumsy, emotion-based campaign to require labeling on selective food ..."

Still, if you are adding up the costs, win or lose, that's $67 million spent to oppose labeling initiatives in just two states.

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Posted at 7:51PM CST 11/03/13 by Chris Clayton
Comments (3)
Why waste the money? A simple label, "Not to be sold in Washington State" would solve the problem.
Posted by Bonnie Dukowitz at 5:58AM CST 11/04/13
If a generic "May contain genetically grown grain product.", then why not allow it to pass and just put that on your label and see what it does to salability of your product? Or, how long would the law last if only organic grown product was available in a state? Let them pass the law and then let them come up with their own perfect food.
Posted by CRAIG MOORE at 3:48PM CST 11/04/13
I have seen a photo of a carton of Betty Crocker cake frosting labeled with GMO notifications for sale in New Zealand. It is not like companies do not already do this because they must in order to export to the 64 countries which require GMO labeling. The idea of any additional cost with labeling is fiction to take away the rights of people to know what they are buying. Labeling is strictly a market based solution to let people buy what they want.
Posted by Richard Pendarvis at 10:15PM CST 11/04/13
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