Washington Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Measure, Initiative 522 (2013)
|Washington Initiative 522|
|Type:||Initiative to the Legislature|
|Topic:||Food and agriculture|
|Status:||On the ballot|
- 1 Background
- 2 Text of measure
- 3 Support
- 4 Opposition
- 5 Media endorsements
- 6 Polls
- 7 Reports and analyses
- 8 Related lawsuits
- 9 Path to the ballot
- 10 Similar measures
- 11 See also
- 12 External links
- 13 Additional reading
- 14 References
If approved, the initiative would require certain foods and seeds for sale to consumers that come from plants or animals which contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled as such. If these foods are not labeled correctly, a penalty of up to $1,000 per day per mislabeled item could be assessed on the violator. The stipulations in I-522 would take effect on July 1, 2015.
According to the Washington Official Voter Guide 2013, I-522 defines GMOs as foods in which there have been "changes to genetic material produced through techniques that directly insert DNA or RNA into organisms or that use cell fusion techniques to overcome natural barriers to cell multiplication or recombination."
A similar measure, California's Proposition 37, was narrowly defeated on November 6, 2012. Proposition 37 enjoyed a 61% lead in the polls in early September of 2012; roughly $45.6 million was spent to defeat it.
If I-522 is passed, it will be the first measure of its type in the country.
Major scientific studies have consistently ruled that genetically modified foods are safe for human consumption. Virtually all major studies have been funded or conducted by the companies promoting and selling such products, however. Opponents have called for independent studies on GMOs, as some smaller independent studies have indicated GMOs may not be safe under all or certain circumstances, such as pregnancy. Some countries have banned the sales of GMOs citing this lack of research done by independent institutions, rather than the companies themselves. GMO labeling is mandated in 64 countries, including the European Union nations, Australia, China, Japan, Brazil and India. Proponents of GMO labeling in the United States are focusing their campaigns not on the safety of GMOs, but on transparency in the food system. In the United States a large proportion of commodity crops are genetically engineered: 97% of the nation's sugar beets, 93% of the soybeans, 90% of the cotton and 90% of the feed corn, according to the 2013 figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  In the summer of 2013, Maine and Connecticut both passed GMO labeling laws, however the laws will not take effect unless other states follow suit.
March Against Monsanto (MAM) organized protests in fifty-two countries and in over four-hundred cities to happen on October 12, 2013. MAM describes their goal as “informing the public, calling into question long-term health risks of genetically modified foods and demanding the GMO products be labeled so that consumers can make informed decisions.” Over 2,000 people participated in a similar march in Seattle on May 25, 2013. MAM and news sources estimate the upcoming march in Seattle to be larger due to Initiative 522.
California's Proposition 37
In 2012, voters in California voted on a similar measure, which would require the labeling of GMOs and prevent foods containing them from being designated as "natural." Prop 37 was defeated by a narrow margin of 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent. Supporters of the measure raised $8,700,000, while the opposition campaign - which, like I-522 received millions of dollars from the biotech corporation Monsanto - raised $45,600,000. Read more about Prop 37 here.
Text of measure
The following is the ballot text on file with the Washington Secretary of State's office and provided by the initiative's supporters:
|“||Initiative Measure No. 522 concerns labeling of genetically-engineered foods.
This measure would require most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stocks, if produced using genetic engineering as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale.
Should this measure be enacted into law?
The following is the ballot measure summary of the proposal:
"This measure would require foods produced entirely or partly with genetic engineering, as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale in Washington, beginning in July 2015. The labeling requirement would apply generally to raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stock, with some exceptions, but would not require that specific genetically-engineered ingredients be identified. The measure would authorize state enforcement and civil penalties, and allow private enforcement actions."
According to the official statement put out by the Washington Office of Financial Management, "Known state agency implementation costs are estimated at $3,368,000 over six fiscal years. State and local revenue and costs from enforcement activities are indeterminate." Based on state expenditure and cost assumptions, "the total cost of this expenditure over six fiscal years is estimated at $1,200,000." The following table shows Department of Health - the entity that would be responsible for enforcing the measure - estimated costs by fiscal year:
Yes on I 522, GMO Labeling
- State Senator Maralyn Chase (D-32), co-chairs the campaign
- State Representative Cary Condotta (R-12), co-chairs the campaign
- Seattle City Council
- Mike McGinn, Mayor of Seattle
- State Senator Mark Mullet (D-5)
- State Senator Jeanne Kohl-Welles (D-36)
- State Senator Bob Hasegawa (D-11)
- State Senator Sharon Nelson (D-34)
- State Senator Ed Murray (D-43)
- State Senator Paull Shin (D-21)
- State Representative Jim Moeller (D-49)
- State Representative Ruth Kagi (D-32)
- State Representative Larry Seaquist (D-26)
- State Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos (D-37)
- State Representative Joe Fitzgibbon (D-34)
- State Representative Marko Liias (D-21)
- State Representative Cindy Ryu (D-32)
- State Representative Luis Moscoso (D-1)
- State Representative Gerry Pollet (D-46)
- State Representative Roger Freeman (D-30)
- State Representative David Sawyer (D-29)
- Martin Moore, Parks and Recreation Commissioner, City of Federal Way (D)
- Dow Constantine, King County Executive (D)
- Lloyd Hara, King County Assessor (D)
- Marty Campbell, Deputy Mayor of Tacoma (D)
- Ryan Mello, Tacoma City Council (D)
- Tim Leavitt, Mayor of Vancouver (D)
- Ben Stuckart, Spokane City Council President (D)
- Mike Fagan, Spokane City Council (D)
- Derrick Skaug, Pullman City Council (D)
- Nathan Weller, Pullman City Council (D)
- Randy Corman, President, Renton City Council (D)
- Steve Stuart, Clark County Commissioner (D)
- Jim McCune, Pierce County Council (R)
- Jon Culp, Okanogan City Council (D)
- Dwight Pelz, Chair, Washington State Democrats (D)
Yes on 522 — Washington State GMO Labeling
- Luke Esser, Former Chair, Washington State Republican Party (R)
- Former State Senator Bill Finkbeiner (R-45)
- Former State Representative, Former State Representative, (D-22)
- The Alliance for Democracy
- Biodynamic Farming & Gardening Association
- Biosafety Alliance
- Buy Local Clark County
- Center for Food Safety
- Chinook Book Seattle
- Community to Community
- Conservation Northwest
- Credo Action
- Environmental Working Group
- Faith Action Network
- Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance
- Food and Water Watch
- Food Democracy Now!
- Friends of the Earth
- GMO-Free San Juan County
- Good Food World
- Grays Harbor County Democrats
- Green America
- Healthcare Professionals for a Safe & Healthy Sustainable Food Supply
- IBEW 76
- ILWU 52
- Institute for Responsible Technology
- Jefferson County Democrats
- Jefferson County Farmers Market Association
- Just Label It
- King County Democrats
- Kitsap County Democrats
- Lewis County Democrats
- Lopez Locavores
- Mangrove Action Project
- National Young Farmers Association
- Natural Products Association Northwest
- Non-GMO Project
- Nutritional Therapy Association
- Palouse Environmental Sustainability Coalition
- PCC Farmland Trust
- Pesticide Action Network
- Pierce County Democrats
- Occupy Bellingham
- Organic Consumers Association
- Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association
- Quimper Grange 720
- Seattle Tilth
- Sierra Club, Snohomish Chapter
- Slow Food Land and Sea
- Snohomish County Democrats
- Spokane County Democrats
- Sustainable Capitol Hill
- Sustainable Connections
- Tilth Producers of Washington
- United Farm Workers
- United National Products Association
- University of Washington Young Democrats
- Washington Association of Naturopathic Physicians
- Washington Conservation Voters
- Washington East Asian Medicine Association
- Washington Physicians for Social Responsibility
- Washington State Farmers Market Association
- Washington State Nurses Association
- Washington State Senior Citizens Lobby
- Washington Sustainable Food and Farming Network
- Washington Toxics Coalition
- Washington Young Farmers Coalition
- Western Washington Physicians for a National Health Program
- Whatcom County Democrats
- Whatcom County Women’s Democratic Club
- Whatcom County Young Democrats
- See also: A full list of supporters
The arguments presented in favor of Initiative 522 in the state's official voter guide were constructed by supporters of I-522, including: Judy Huntington, RN, Executive Director, Washington Nurses Association; Seth Williams, Fourth-Generation Wheat Farmer, Eastern Washington; Walt Bowen, President, Washington State Senior Citizens' Lobby; Trudy Bialic, Director of Public Affairs, PCC Natural Markets; Maralyn Chase, State Senator, Democrat, Shoreline; Cary Condotta, State Representative, Republican, Wenatchee. The arguments featured include:
- "Right to know: In America, we have a right to know important information about the food we eat and feed our families - such as sugar and sodium levels, whether flavors are natural or artificial, the country of origin, and if fish are wild or farm-raised. We also should have a right to choose whether we want to buy and eat genetically engineered food. Labels matter. They ensure transparency and preserve the freedom to make our own decisions about the food we eat. I-522 is a step in the right direction. U.S. companies already label genetically engineered foods for markets in the 64 countries that require labeling, including some of Washington’s largest trading partners. Genetically engineered crops, such as wheat, have contaminated conventional crops in the Northwest. Some countries suspended imports from our farmers, putting our economy at risk. Separation and labeling, from the seed level up through the supply chain, helps protect exports to countries that require labeling."
- "Broad support: I-522 was brought to the ballot by more than 350,000 citizens and draws strong support from farmers, fishing families, health care professionals, business owners, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents across our state."
- "Labels let you decide: Voting Yes on I-522 is an important step for more information about your food. You should have the freedom to decide what to eat. Your food decisions should be up to you - not corporations, the government, or special interests. Labels let you decide. Vote for the right to know what’s in your food."
- Rebuttal of argument against: "Powerful chemical corporations that genetically engineer food oppose labeling because they care about their profits, not our right to know. The truth: labels ensure transparency. The government has conducted no independent safety tests and the Washington State Nurses Association endorses labeling to trace health issues. Labeling is easy and it gives us the freedom to decide what to buy. Foods are relabeled frequently. Adding words to a label doesn’t increase costs. Trust yourself to decide."
The Center for Media and Democracy, a self-described “non-profit watchdog organization,” investigated the opposition’s advertisements and tactics and produced the following criticisms:
- The claim of increased food prices is “unfounded.” It assumes that all food manufacturers in Washington will switch to more expensive organic ingredients.
- No on 522 is funded by large agrobusiness companies, but, on their website they don’t include these under “supporters.” Rather, they include individual farmers, ranchers and scientists. No on 522’s strategy is known as “astroturf,” because their campaign attempts to resemble an “authentic” grassroots campaign, “just as astroturf is made to look like actual grass.”
- Many scientists are not convinced GMOs are safe, despite the opposition’s claims. Plant Pathologist Doug Gurian-Sherman pointed out that “biotech companies prohbit any independent testing of their products. That means that the only safety testing ever done on GE foods is done by the companies that profit from them.”
Michael Lipsky of Demos, a public policy and advocacy organization, offered a rebuttal of the price-hike argument made by the Washington Research Council, a business-supported organization. He noted that opponents were relying on an overly simplistic economic analysis. He offered a two-part price analysis based on supply-and-demand:
- “For one thing, if labeling were required, particularly if (and when) the labeling requirement is adopted by other states, demand for non-GMO versions of corn, soybeans, and sugar beets — the basic GMO crops — would increase, production would expand, and prices for non-GMO ingredients would decline. The result would be a new price equilibrium surely less costly for food producers than the cost of current non-GMO ingredients.”
- “For another, if foods with GMO ingredients indeed were cheaper to produce, there would be ongoing demand for the less expensive versions of food products, and some GMO foods would find a market niche at the lower price point.”
Other arguments for the measure include:
- A key argument being put forth for mandatory labeling is that such labeling would allow consumers more control over their purchasing decisions. According to initiative sponsor Chris McManus, "Yes, you can steer clear of certain items, but unless you know that they're there, how do you know to steer clear of them? Putting a label on the front of that just informs the consumer a little bit more about what they're buying."
- Supporters say that mandatory labeling would not impact companies' profits because food labels are already routinely updated. They also point to the fact that labels are already used for sugar, fat and other ingredients so there would be no extra cost to adding information to genetically engineered food labels.
- Political Science Professor Todd Donovan, an expert on ballot measures, said, “This is not just about what’s going on in Washington state. This reminds of the beverage tax in that you’ve got some really powerful, well-financed groups that don’t want to see the idea spreading to other states and they’re probably willing to spend a ton of money here to play defense so they don’t have do to this elsewhere.”
- Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University, stated that GMOs being "functionally equivalent" to convention crops isn't a good enough reason to not label them. He labeled that argument as "disingenuous." He said, "There is plenty of precedent for FDA requiring process labeling. Think of 'made from concentrate' or 'previously frozen."
- Kelly Fox, President of Washington State Council of Firefighters, said that labeling would encourage safer work conditions for workers. He stated, "Genetically engineered crops use more toxic chemicals than regular crops, putting the workers tending these farms at greater risk: We stand in support of greater safety at work, and by labeling genetically engineering in food, we can choose to support safer jobs."
- State Senator Mark Mullet (D-5) said, "I support it. This is just trying to make people make more informed decisions. And if enough states start labeling it, then maybe it will all catch on. I got both sides in Olympia. Having lived in Europe for five years, I view this as a very soft thing. This is just letting customers make better choices."
- David Bronner of Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps argued that GMO labeling is an important first step against corporate control of plant genetics. He said, "GMO labeling is just the beginning but it is a crucial step. The seed industry is being bought by chemical companies that produces pesticides inside the plants people eat. Companies are reinforcing unsustainable practices."
The "No" campaign has out-raised the "Yes" campaign by $13,578,632 or 261%. The "No" campaign has out-spent the "Yes" campaign by $11,895,393 or 244%.
The following data was obtained from the Public Disclosure Commission and is current as of October 30, 2013. The following are committees registered in support of Initiative 522:
|PAC||Amount raised||Amount spent|
|EWG Yes on I-522 Comm||$30,228||$19,570|
|Farmers & Friends of Initiative 522||$79,883||$57,753|
|Genetically Modified Organisms Awareness Group||$0||$0|
|GMO Right to Know||$500||$0|
|Label It WA||$513,006||$511,817|
|Organic Consumers Fund Comm to Label GMOs in WA ST||$786,764||$734,214|
|Yes on I-522 Comm||$7,020,914||$6,914,977|
| Total campaign cash |
as of October 4, 2013
Top 5 contributors:
|Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps||$1,750,000|
|Organic Consumer Fund||$380,000|
|Mercola.Com Health Resources LLC||$250,000|
|Organic Consumer Fund to Label GMOs in WA State||$200,000|
|Presence Marketing Inc.||$200,000|
No on I 522, GMO Labeling
- Washington State Republican Party
- Republicans of Spokane County
- State Senator Michael Baumgartner (R-6)
- State Senator Janea Holmquist (R-13)
- State Senator Jim Honeyford (R-15)
- State Senator Mark G. Schoesler (R-9)
- State Senator Tim Sheldon (D-35)
- State Representative Gary Alexander (R-2)
- State Representative Vincent Buys (R-42)
- State Representative Bruce Chandler (R-15)
- State Representative Donald Cox (R-9)
- State Representative Larry Crouse (R-4)
- State Representative Cathy Dahlquist (R-31)
- State Representative Susan Fagan (R-9)
- State Representative Larry Haler (R-8)
- State Representative Mike Hewitt (R-16)
- State Representative Norm Johnson (R-15)
- State Representative Brad Klippert (R-8)
- State Representative Linda Kochmar (R-30)
- State Representative Judy Warnick (R-13)
- State Representative Joe Schmick (R-9)
- State Representative Kevin Parker (R-6)
- State Representative Terry R. Nealey (R-16)
- State Representative Dick Muri (R-28)
- State Representative Matt Manweller (R-13)
- State Representative Chad Magendanz (R-5)
- David Condon, Mayor of Spokane (R)
- Steve Young, Mayor of Kennewick (D)
- Micah Cawley, Mayor of Yakima (R)
- Glenn Hull, Mayor of Fife (D)
- Shelly O’Quinn, Spokane County Commissioner (R)
- Todd Mielke, Spokane County Commissioner (R)
- Nancy McLaughlin, Spokane City Council Member (R)
- Ray Campbell, Okanogan County Commissioner (R)
- Jim DeTro, Okanogan County Commissioner (R)
- Brad Peck, Franklin County Commissioner (R)
- Mark Stedman, Lincoln County Commissioner (R)
- Mark Zorica, Newport City Councilman (R)
- William D. Hyslop, Former US Attorney of Eastern District of Washington
Dan Newhouse Urges NO on 522
- Former Governor and US Senator Daniel J. Evans (R)
- Former US Senator Slade Gorton (R)
- Former US Representative George Nethercutt (R)
- Former US Representative Sid Morrison (R)
- Former Secretary of State Sam S. Reed (R)
- Former State Representative Clyde Ballard (R-12)
- Former State Representative John Serben (R-6)
- Former State Senator Brian Murray (R-6)
- Former State Senator Bob Morton, (R-7)
- Former State Senator Jeanine Long, (R-44)
- Mike DeVleming, Former Mayor and City Council Member of Spokane (R)
- Association of Washington Business
- Associated Industries
- Northwest Food Processors Association
- Northwest Grocery Association
- Far West Agribusiness Association
- Greater Pasco Area Chamber of Commerce
- Tri-City Regional Chamber of Commerce
- Washington Association of Neighborhood Stores
- Washington Restaurant Association
- Washington Retail Association
- AgVentures NW, LLC
- Backachers Emu Ranch
- Buchholz Farms LLC
- Darren Young Insurance Agency Inc.
- Ekone Oyster Co.
- Eltopia Irrigation
- Henningsen Cold Storage Co.
- LC Farms, Inc.
- Maizena & Sunburst LLC
- McGregor Company
- Northern Oyster Co.
- Skagit Farmers Supply
- Sno-Valley Farms Inc.
- Webley Farms and Cattle
- American Feed Industry Association
- CR Cherries, Inc.
- Greater Spokane Incorporated
- Mainstream Republicans of Washington
- Northwest Automatic Vending Association
- Schorzman Farms Joint Venture
- SunRay Farms
- See also: A full list of opponents
The arguments presented in opposition of Initiative 522 in the state's official voter guide were constructed by opponents of I-522, including: R. James Cook, Professor Emeritus, WSU; Member, National Academy of Sciences; Dan Newhouse, Former Director, Washington State Department of Agriculture; Mike LaPlant, President, Washington Farm Bureau; Family Farmer, Grant County; Peter Dunbar, M.D., Former President, Washington State Medical Association; Nicole Berg, Family Farmer; National Conservation Leadership Award Winner; Eric Maier, Past President, Washington Association of Wheat Growers. The arguments featured include:
- "I-522 makes no sense: For decades, agricultural biotechnology has helped improve food crops so they resist disease, require fewer pesticides or are more nutritious. Today, 70-80% of grocery products include ingredients from these foods, and they’re deemed safe by the FDA and major scientific and medical organizations. Yet I-522 would require thousands of these products to have special, new labels - only for Washington - while giving special exemptions to thousands of others, even when they contain "genetically engineered" (GE) ingredients. I-522 requires fruits, vegetables and grain-based products to be labeled, but exempts meat and dairy products from animals fed GE grains. It mandates special labels and signs in supermarkets, but exempts restaurants from providing information about GE ingredients in their foods. Foods from foreign countries would be exempt if manufacturers simply claim they’re exempt. So I-522 wouldn’t even give consumers a reliable way of knowing which foods contain GE ingredients."
- "Higher taxpayer costs, more state bureaucracy and lawsuits: I-522 would require the state to monitor labels on thousands of products in thousands of stores - costing taxpayers millions. It would allow trial lawyers to sue farmers, food producers and grocers over the wording on food labels - encouraging shakedown lawsuits. And, studies show I-522's Washington-only labeling requirements would hurt local farmers and increase an average family’s food costs by hundreds of dollars per year."
- "Washington scientists, farmers and food producers urge no on 522."
- "Rebuttal of argument for: Existing food labels already give consumers the option to choose foods without GE ingredients by choosing products labeled "certified organic." I-522’s complicated, poorly written regulations would put Washington farmers and food producers at a competitive disadvantage, not protect them. I-522 would not protect our export markets or provide consumers with reliable information about our food. But it would increase grocery prices for Washington families and cost taxpayers millions. Vote no on this costly, unnecessary measure."
Other arguments against the measure include:
- On February 18, 2013, the Seattle Times published an editorial written by Thanh Tan saying: "I eat organic or all-natural food as much as possible. I read labels. I buy local. I also choose to believe mainstream, peer-reviewed science — which so far shows genetically engineered (GE or GMO) food is not harmful to our health. Trust me, this is a hard pill for me to swallow. Like so many others, I viewed GMO crops as the unnatural, unregulated creation of a few biotech giants like Monsanto. The narrative was simple: Big Food is the bad guy. Of course, the truth is more nuanced. Hearing and reading a January 2013 speech from former anti-GMO crusader and British environmental activist Mark Lynas has made me question my own personal bias against genetically modified food."
- In an editorial published on February 20, 2013, Tracy Warner, of The Wenatchee World, wrote: "Initiative 522, which is certainly headed to our November ballot, would require all foods containing GMO ingredients wear a special label saying so. This is superficially benign, to be sold as a harmless and good right-to-know measure, but it is far more complex and devious. Essentially the food industry will be ordered to slap warning labels on most processed products sold in Washington, at great expense, so the initiative backers may sell more foods labeled “natural” or something else, foods no more natural and no healthier than any other; to stigmatize the products of science that allows more food to be produced on less land, requiring fewer expenditures and resources and saving wear on the environment, that all credible scientific studies show is perfectly safe."
- According to Heather Hansen, executive director of Washington Friends of Farms and Forests, "We think this is really intended to be a scare tactic, to ultimately scare people away from technology. And it's not providing any meaningful information."
- State Rep. Chad Magendanz said, "I absolutely support warning labels for foods that represent serious health risks for consumers, such as those containing alcohol, tobacco or common ingredients that can trigger severe or life-threatening allergies. However, during our hearing on I-522 this session, I heard no independently verified research showing foods made from genetically modified organisms represents a serious health risk for anyone. In fact, the required label says nothing about what’s actually in the food and instead focuses only on how it was produced. I also have serious concerns with how I-522 would be implemented at the state level,” he said. “Most labeling requirements are determined at the federal level so that farmers, processors and packaging facilities have just one set of rules to follow for the entire country. By adding burdensome packaging requirements that apply just for our state, we’ll drive production costs up, increase exposure to frivolous lawsuits and ultimately drive smaller brands out of our state, and that’s not good for the consumer in an economy where everyone is more price sensitive."
As of October 30, 2013, opponents of I-522 have raised approximately $22 million, setting the record for the most money ever raised - in support or opposition - for a ballot measure in the state of Washington. This record was previously held by supporters of the 2011 I-1183 - a measure that sought to close state liquor stores and allow for state licensing of private retailers - who raised $20.1 million to support the "yes" campaign. I-1183 was approved on November 8, 2011.
Washington's top 5 most expensive ballot measure campaigns:
|Initiative 522 (2013)||Opposition||$22,009,926|
|Initiative 1183 (2011)||Support||$20,115,326|
|Initiative 1107 (2010)||Support||$16,042,629|
|Referendum 74 (2012)||Support||$14,784,287|
|Initiative 1183 (2011)||Opposition||$12,351,656|
The "No" campaign has out-raised the "Yes" campaign by $13,578,632 or 261%. The "No" campaign has out-spent the "Yes" campaign by $11,895,393 or 244%.
The following data was obtained from the Public Disclosure Commission and is current as of October 30, 2013. The following are committees registered in opposition to Initiative 522:
|PAC||Amount raised||Amount spent|
|Grocery Manufacturers Association Against I-522||$11,047,474||11,034,833|
|NO on 522||$22,009,926||$20,131,724|
- Note: GMA has a PAC as of October 2013 due to an impending lawsuit. However, GMA is not “spending” contributions. Rather, GMA is giving their received donations to No on 522 as “donations,” as they did prior to registering as a PAC. However, the continuation of these "donations" may be illegal, according to AG Ferguson. Therefore, total contributions and spendings are based on No on 522.
Top 5 contributors:
- The Stranger said, "Give consumers a label they might not need (like country of origin or previously frozen), and then let the GMO and processed foods industries defend the health and safety of their products... If GMOs are as safe and beneficial as they say they are, let them run ads selling that message to consumers instead of the anti-522 bullshit they're currently flinging at voters."
- The Inlander publisher and editor, Ted S. McGregor, Jr., wrote, "Americans care about food just as much as all those European nations that have such strict rules; we just don't have a government that looks out for us as much as it should. If we did, measures like I-522 might not be necessary. This is not a vote to ban genetically modified foods; I just want the truth right there on the label so I can decide for myself. I'm voting yes on I-522."
- The Spokesman-Review said, "As is so often the case with initiatives, I-522 is a potentially good idea wrapped in very bad law-making. Labeling is already out there for consumers who want it and for producers who want to sell to them. It’s too early to stigmatize a new science like genetic engineering before we understand all its positives and negatives."
- The Yakima Herald-Republic editorialized against Initiative 522 on September 29, 2013. In the editorial, the board wrote, "All in all, the initiative holds the potential to create more problems than it solves — for farmers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers. Food makers and retailers already can use labels to inform consumers if they offer foods free of GMO; if advocates wish to further their cause, they can do so in a market-driven manner, by building demand through publicizing what they offer. In other words, they can build their market organically, and not through a mandate that would result from Initiative 522."
- The Seattle Times called on voters to "be skeptical" of I-522 in an editorial published on February 17, 2013. In the editorial, the board wrote, "People already have the option of buying GMO-free foods from producers who farm organically or who choose to self-label. Organic farms in Washington are responding to the market’s demands. Well-meaning consumers say they want more freedom of choice. With I-522, they may end up with less. Just look at European Union countries where producers are using higher-priced ingredients to avoid even the potential stigma of a mandatory GMO label. Consider their experience a cautionary note for Washington voters."
- The Columbian said, "The "public's right to know" can be a powerful and important selling point for an initiative, but Initiative 522 is a clumsy, clunky effort that diminishes the measure's benefits. The statewide initiative should be rejected by voters in the Nov. 5 election."
- Tri-City Herald said, "Why shouldn't consumers have a right to know what's in the food they eat? That's the sort of simple, direct, emotional appeal that marketers can work with. The arguments against the initiative require a discussion of economics and science... I-522 wouldn't end GMO research but it's a step in the wrong direction, adding costs without bringing benefits. The Herald editorial board recommends voters reject Initiative 522."
- The Longview Daily News said, "To our ears, and to the ears of many others, I-522 seems like more of an effort to scare consumers away from foods containing GMOs than to direct them toward healthier alternatives. After almost two decades, proof has yet to surface that food containing GMOs presents any measurable health risk at all. We think it’s illustrative that major proponents of I-522 include the Whole Foods chain of organic grocery stores and producers of organic meats and produce. Larger grocery chains and organizations representing state farmers and food wholesalers have either taken no position or are opposed."
- The Wenatchee World said, "If the initiative intends to inform consumers, it fails. If it intends to raise rational caution about the use of genetic engineering, it has chosen the wrong medium. Unknown complications, rising expense, heavy regulation, unnecessary fear and stigma, the initiative will bring all that. That is enough to vote no on Initiative 522."
- See also: Polls, 2013 ballot measures
A survey by The Elway Poll conducted September 3-5, 2013, found that 43% would "definitely" vote for the amendment, 23% would "probably" vote for it, 21% would vote against it and 13% were undecided. A total of 406 likely voters were polled with margin of error at +/-5%.
As of October 22, 2013 - exactly two weeks before election day - according to a KING 5 News poll the gap between support and opposition grew smaller, with enough people undecided to swing the vote either way.
|Washington Initiative 522 - Support v. Opposition|
|Poll||Support||Opposition||Undecided||Margin of Error||Sample Size|
September 3-5, 2013
October 15-17, 2013
|KING 5 News Poll|
October 22, 2013
|Note: The polls above may not reflect all polls that have been conducted in this race. Those displayed are a random sampling chosen by Ballotpedia staff. If you would like to nominate another poll for inclusion in the table, send an email to|
On October 21, 2013, the Elway Poll put out a second poll with the following information, this time regarding just I-522.
The following information was also released with the second Elway Poll on October 21, 2013:
Reports and analyses
Washington State Academy of Science
In March 2013, the state legislative committees dealing with health, agriculture, water and natural resources requested that the Academy of Science developed a committee to analyze some issues regarding genetically modified foods. In early October 2013, the committee published their report on GMOs and Initiative 552. The following is a summary of the report's five sections:
- Section 1: Definitions (Background) - The scientific committee determined that a “genetically modified organism” is produced using advanced technological techniques that involve the addition of specific genes from any organism into another or the elimination of any genes in the organism. Over 90% of corn, soybean and cotton in the United States are genetically modified. Potential GMOs that are of market interest in Washington include apples, potatoes and salmon.
- Section 2: Nutrition - Based on international standards, GMOs are nutritionally “substantially equivalent” to their counterparts.
- Section 3: Food Safety - GMOs have effectively found “safe” for consumers given the current state of knowledge and evidence. Nonetheless, continued surveillance of long-term health effects from genetically modified foods is warranted. No long-term, thorough and case-by-case scientific study has yet been conducted.
- Section 4: Policy and Trade - The lack of uniform standards, known as trade harmonization, and the potential for discriminatory policies is likely to affect trade between states and countries. Because of this, increased prices may be externalized to the consumer, but there is difficulty in predicating how much cost.
- Section 5: Regulation and Enforcement - The responsibility of monitoring compliance would accrue to both the public and private firms. Estimates for the cost of monitoring range from a hundred thousand to millions of dollars per year. Such a wide estimate exists due to the lack of “after the fact” economic data.
To read the full report, see here
Just Label It
Kai Robertson, a business sustainability consultant, conducted an independent study and literature review on behalf of Just Label It, a national consumer advocacy organization. Robertson’s objectives were to determine whether there is a connection between changes to labels by food processors and food prices.
She found that the major variables affecting food prices were demand-oriented factors, such as consumer demographics, rival pricing behavior, market, chain and store characteristics. Changes to product labels by food processors has been a minor variable in pricing considerations. No studies have documented price fluctuations due to product labels.
To read the full report, see here
Washington v. Grocery Manufacturers Association
On October 16, 2013, Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) initiated a lawsuit on behalf of the Washington Public Disclosure Commission against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), an opponent of Initiative 522. GMA, according to Ferguson, must reveal whether or not the organization did a special assessment - asking members to donate for the specific cause - in raising $7.2 million for the No on 522 campaign. If so, they must register as a political committee and disclose donor names. The GMA has refused to say if it did such a special assessment. Ferguson believes that the association is attempting to shield members from scrutiny for opposing the initiative. He said, "This is precisely the conduct our campaign disclosure laws are designed to prevent." He noted that the case could lead to a significant fine.
"We are looking into the complaint and the specific allegations it contains. GMA takes great care to understand and comply with all state election and campaign finance laws and is surprised to learn that the Washington State authorities viewed the association’s actions as improper."
The lawsuit was filed with the Thurston County Superior Court. However, on Friday, October 18, 2013, GMA agreed to create a separate PAC and disclose the donors and the amounts given by each. GMA issued the following statement:
In the spirit of continuing cooperation and in an effort to provide Washington voters with full transparency about GMA’s funding for the “No on 522” campaign, the association has voluntarily decided to establish a Washington state political committee and to file reports with the PDC disclosing the source of all funds used in connection with Washington State elections.
GMA is taking this action to allow the campaign to focus on the important issues related to the I-522 ballot proposal itself, and to put an end to unnecessary distraction and speculation about sources and amounts of funding.
GMA has cooperated fully with the Public Disclosure Commission and the attorney general throughout their investigation, and will continue to engage state authorities in a constructive dialogue in the weeks and months ahead. 
After GMA's disclosure of donors, Ferguson said, "We believe this is the largest amount of money that’s been concealed of any case we ever brought." He said he will seek penalties against the GMA.
On October 30, the Office of the Attorney General stated, “Since the Attorney General’s lawsuit was filed, GMA against I-522 has reported additional contributions totaling more than $3.8 million to No on 522. Under RCW 42.17A.442, a state law, a “political committee may make a contribution to another political committee only when the contributing political committee has received contributions of $10 or more each from at least 10 persons registered to vote in Washington state.” Only two days prior did the GMA report 10 donations from 10 registered voters. Nonetheless, “The $3.8 million in contributions from the [GMA] to No on 522 appear to have been collected by the GMA from its members prior to registering the political committee... These subsequent contributions were not reported by the GMA when it submitted its disclosure of contributor members and the value of their contributions on Oct. 18.”
Path to the ballot
A total of 246,372 signatures are needed to place a measure before Washington Legislature. If the legislature does not enact the measure, it would then be sent to the ballot. The deadline for the submission of those signatures to the Washington Secretary of State was January 4, 2013.
In early January 2013, supporters of I-522 stated that they had reached their goal of garnering approximately 320,000 signatures - the second highest number of signatures ever collected for an initiative in Washington - in hopes of presenting it to the Washington Legislature. The Washington Secretary of State's office reported that supporters of Initiative 522 had submitted about 19,000 petitions with about 350,000 signatures on January 3, 2013.
On February 1, 2013, the Washington Secretary of State's office reported that enough signatures were obtained to place the measure before legislature. Out of the random sample of 10,762 signatures for I-522, 9,503 were valid and 1,241 were invalid, while there were 18 pairs of duplicate signatures.
The 2013 state legislative session ended on April 28, 2013, with no resolution from the legislature. The measure will now go before voters in the November 5, 2013 general election.
Signature collection costs
- Signatures to qualify I-522 for the ballot were collected by Peoples Petitions LLC, among other groups.
- The CPRS for I-522 - given that $407,747 was spent on signatures versus a minimum requirement of 246,372 signatures - comes to $1.66 per required signature.
- In 2012, the average CPRS in Washington was $4.80.
In 2012, California voters pulled their levers on Proposition 37, a measure that would have led to the requirement of labels on many raw or processed foods offered for sale to consumers if the foods were made from plants or animals with genetic material changed in specified ways. The measure was defeated, 51.4% to 48.6%.
- Yes on 522
- No on 522
- Initiative 522 (text)
- Yes on 522 YouTube account
- No on 522 YouTube account
- 2013 Informed Voter Guide
- KPIU 88.5, "I-522: Looking to the European Union for a Real-Life Example", October 25, 2013
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer, "Pepsi, Coke, Nestle top multi-million-dollar campaign against I-522", October 18, 2013
- Yakima Herald Republic, "Conflicting claims on safety of genetically modified foods", October 13, 2013
- Seattle Globalist, "What Washington should know about GMO’s", July 3, 2013
- Tri-City Herald, "Plenty of food for thought before voting on GMO labeling initiative", June 5, 2013
- Seattle Times, "Initiative 522: a test of what you believe about genetically modified foods", March 12, 2013
- Public Radio International, "Washington activists pushing for new labeling requirements for genetically modified foods", February 5, 2013
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- Washington Official Voter Guide 2013, "Explanatory Statement," accessed October 21, 2013
- Washington Official Voter Guide 2013, "Explanatory Statement," accessed October 21, 2013
- Kansas City Business, "Will Washington state break U.S. logjam on labeling GMO food?" October 17, 2013
- AlJazeera America, “Battle over GMO labeling has natural brands and corporate owners at odds”, September 26, 2013
- USA Today, “Washington state battles over genetically modified food”, October 8, 2013
- NPR, "So What Happens If The Movement To Label GMOs Succeeds?" October 16, 2013
- March Against Monsanto
- Seattle Post Intelligencer, “Thousands Expected to March Against Monsanto Saturday in Seattle, Millions Worldwide”, October 10, 2013
- Washington Secretary of State, "Proposed Initiatives to the Legislature - 2012", Retrieved February 12, 2013
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
- Yes on 522, "Read I-522," accessed October 4, 2013
- Washington Official Voter Guide 2013, "Fiscal Impact Statement," accessed October 21, 2013
- Yes on 522, "Yes on 522: Homepage," accessed October 4, 2013
- Seattle City Council, "Resolution Number: 31484", accessed September 26, 2013
- Washington Secretary of State, "Voters' Guide: 2013 General Election," accessed October 5, 2013
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- The Yakima Herald-Republic, "Initiative 522 creates more problems than it solves," September 29, 2013
- The Seattle Times, "Editorial: Be skeptical of Initiative 522 on GMO labeling," February 17, 2013
- The Columbian, "In Our View: Vote No on Initiative 522", October 13, 2013
- Tri-City Herald, "Our Voice: Reject Initiative 522", October 13, 2013
- The Longview Daily News, "I-522 won't make your food any safer," February 20, 2013
- The Wenatchee World, "No need for Initiative 522", October 12, 2013
- Seattlepi.com, "Poll: Big lead for food-labeling initiative," September 10, 2013
- KING5.com, "Poll: Not clear which way GMO labeling vote will go," October 22, 2013
- Seattle Met, "Elway Poll: Eyman Initiative, GMO Labeling Measure Hold Big Leads," September 10, 2013
- Elway Poll, "I-522: Support for food labeling initiative swings negative 41 points since September," October 21, 2013
- The Olympian, "GMO fight: Attorney General sues to force No on 522 donor to reveal sources of its $7.2 million contribution", October 16, 2013
- Office of the Attorney General, "State of Washington v. Grocery Manufacturers Association", accessed October 28, 2013
- KGW, "WA AG sues food industry group over GMO initiative", October 17, 2013
- Seattle PI, "Faced with lawsuit, Grocery Manufacturers Association agrees to disclose campaign finances," October 18, 2013
- kirotv.com, “VIDEO: DC group accused of illegally influencing 522 vote”, October 21, 2013
- MyNorthwest.com, "Wash. AG to still seek penalty against food group", October 22, 2013
- Office of the Attorney General, “Status report on AG Lawsuit against Grocery Manufacturers Association,” October 30, 2013
- Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “AG: More violations in No on 522 money”, October 30, 2013
- The Columbian, "Washington's GMO vote will be scrutinized nationally," October 20, 2013
- [Email confirmation from Kay Ramsay of the Washington Secretary of State]
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- From Our Corner, "Washington Secretary of State", February 1, 2013
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