After Washington GMO label battle, both sides eye national fight

Fri Nov 8, 2013 12:59pm EST

Related Topics

(Reuters) - Both sides of the costly and high-stakes GMO labeling battle in Washington state say they see an even bigger national fight ahead despite the apparent defeat of the mandatory labeling measure by Washington state voters this week.

The measure died 47.05 percent to 52.95 percent, according to results updated Thursday night by the Washington Secretary of State's office as results continued to trickle in. The likely loss followed a similar defeat last year in California when a ballot initiative there also failed to pass.

"It is pretty well beyond any doubt," said Secretary of State elections division spokesman David Ammons of the apparent defeat of the labeling proposal. Results will be certified on December 4 and are unlikely to change much, he added.

The measures in Washington and California had early strong support in polls. That support ebbed as food and agricultural industry players poured millions of dollars into advertising campaigns spelling out what the industry groups said were deep flaws in the proposed laws. A consortium that includes General Mills, Nestle USA, PepsiCo, Monsanto,; and other corporate giants, contributed roughly $22 million to kill the labeling law.

Despite the Washington loss, proponents pushing for labeling on food made from genetically modified crops cite progress in 20 other U.S. states, particularly in Massachusetts, New York and New Hampshire. They say they will also turn up the pressure on federal lawmakers and regulators.

The 2016 presidential election is a prime target for more ballot initiative efforts due to higher voter turnout, they say.

"We'll keep bringing the fight until they give in," said David Bronner, who has contributed more than $2 million to the labeling effort through a California organic soap company he owns. "The commitment of our movement... is huge and growing."

Opponents of labeling say they do not want to keep waging a multi-million-dollar, state-by-state fight against mandatory GMO labeling. Any labeling should be voluntary and follow standards set at the federal level as state-by-state labeling could create costly problems for food manufacturing and distribution channels, they say.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, (GMA) which represents more than 300 food companies, is funding efforts in 25 states to defeat labeling measures. The group is pushing for a "federal solution that will protect consumers by ensuring that the FDA, America's leading food safety authority, sets national standards for the safety and labeling of products made with GMO ingredients," GMA CEO Pamela Bailey said in a statement.

Officials at Monsanto, which spent more than $5 million to kill the Washington measure, say labeling supporters are trying to create the false impression that biotech foods are harmful.

"We absolutely support the consumer's right to know," said Robb Fraley, chief technology officer at Monsanto, the world's largest seed company. "But we can't support misleading labels that infer there is something unsafe about biotech products."

Monsanto has developed an array of biotech corn, soybeans and other crops that have been genetically altered to repel pests and tolerate direct spraying of herbicides. Those crops are used in a vast array of food products.

The companies say the crops are safe and many scientific studies back those claims. But there are also studies showing links to human and animal health problems, and environmental damage.

Proponents of labeling fear the food and biotech agriculture companies will seek a federal ban to pre-empt more state labeling efforts. But they continue to express confidence in long-term victory.

"There is growing consumer outrage and backlash," said Dave Murphy, executive director of Food Democracy Now, a consumer group that support labeling. "We are going to wear them down. We are going to win."

(Reporting By Carey Gillam; editing by Andrew Hay)

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (9)
Renox wrote:
Why would somebody be against labeling anyway, unless they have something to hide! It is a very reasonable request to know what is in your food, period! GMO food is not the same as non GMO food. Don’t believe for minute what these Monsanto Charlatans say !!

Nov 08, 2013 6:50pm EST  --  Report as abuse
ThatsAllShe wrote:
I believe it’s reasonable that all products purchased by any consumer in the U.S., or anywhere for that matter, should have contained and detailed within the products labeling every ingredient contained therein, even to the smallest and most minute detail.

Do those who oppose detailed labeling consider it UNREASONABLE for those who buy their products to know what’s in them?

This whole farce, projected by the huge corporations that are opposed to detailed labeling, stating that it will substantially increase costs to consumers, do they REALLY consider it a costly thing to type a few extra words or sentences into the computer that produces all the labels for their products? Do they believe that the average consumer is ignorant to this fact? Really, how expensive could it be?

Perhaps they themselves do not know what’s in their own products?

Really, all they have to do is type in all of the ingredients of their products into the computer that makes the labels and press go. It’s as simple as that. Or is it MORE than that?

A reasonable mind should wonder, “Why are these big corporations so opposed to this”?

Why have these big corporations spent so many millions of dollars opposing this?

Perhaps they ARE trying to hide something?

Maybe they REALLY DO consider their genetically modified ingredients to be inferior to WHAT IS NATURAL?

Have they not already spent more money in opposing this then what it would cost just to implement it?

So my question is.

Is it because these big corporations fear that consumers will read about, and conclude that, the genetically modified ingredients that are in the products that they want us to buy is just all adulterated crap? And that it will scare us, and make many of us think, “no way do I want to eat this tainted stuff or feed it to my kids”?

Ask yourselves, if you were the boss of one of these big corporations, would the above be REASONABLE questions that you would be asking yourself?

Nov 08, 2013 10:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
74LS08 wrote:
Monsanto will stop at nothing to prevent any GMO food labeling.

People in other countries had long ago rejected GMO foods but in the US Monsanto owns our crooked politicians and that’s why 70% of all processed foods contain GMO ingredients.

Nov 09, 2013 12:38am EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.