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Food, Agriculture, and Animals
Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Washington Legislature. Austin Jenkins is the Olympia correspondent for the Northwest News Network. You can also see Austin on television as host of TVW's (the C–SPAN of Washington State) weekly public affairs program "Inside Olympia."

Washington Voters Reject GMO Labeling

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Austin Jenkins
/
Northwest News Network
The campaign in favor of lableing GMO foods gathered in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle

Washington voters have rejected an initiative to require labels for foods with genetically modified ingredients.

Initiative 522 failed by a 55 to 45 percent vote.

Early in the vote tally, supporters of the initiative remained upbeat at a campaign event in the Pioneer Square neighborhood of Seattle. But the co-chairs of the campaign took the stage to tamp down expectations for campaign supporters.

In fact, one of the co-chairs quipped that if nothing else, after this election at least most Washingtonians now know what the letters GMO stands for.

Backers of the initiative argued that consumers deserve to know what is in their food. The campaign against labels for genetically modified foods raised at least $22 million for a television campaign raising doubts about the initiative.

James Cook is a retired plant pathologist from Washington State University. He joined the campaign against the measure. He says genetic engineering is just a more modern way of selecting plant and animal genes -- something that has been done for decades in other ways.

“Nobody cares how we got the seeds out of grapes, nobody cares how we got double-sweet sweet corn," Cook says. "These were not genetic engineering, but they were done by earlier genetic modification methods.”

Meanwhile, at the Yes on 522 campaign event, Trudy Bialic of PCC Natural Markets addressed the crowd after returns showed the measure down by nearly double digits.

“It’s been a heck of a ride and I really, really think that no matter what we’re going to have labeling and I sure hope it’s in July of 2015,” Bialic said.

That’s when labeling would begin if Initiative 522 passed. Supporters still hold out hope that late arriving ballots will close the gap.