NPI's Cascadia Advocate

Offering commentary and analysis from Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Thurston County joins the Yes on I‑522 camp as margin of defeat narrows again

Those of us who enthu­si­as­ti­cal­ly sup­port­ed Ini­tia­tive 522 (to label genet­i­cal­ly mod­i­fied foods) have some good news to cheer tonight: Thurston Coun­ty has switched sides and joined the Yes camp as of the lat­est tal­ly, bring­ing the total num­ber of coun­ties in favor of I‑522 to five.

Mean­while, the Yes vote statewide climbed to 47.05%, push­ing the No vote below 53%, to 52.95%. We are still pro­ject­ing that I‑522 will be defeat­ed, but it appears that the mar­gin of vic­to­ry for I‑522’s oppo­nents could be some­what slim, which rein­forces our view that I‑522 could have passed last year, had it been on the bal­lot like I‑502 (mar­i­jua­na legal­iza­tion) and Ref­er­en­dum 74 (mar­riage equality).

Oth­er coun­ties in west­ern Wash­ing­ton may also flip before the count­ing ends. Sno­homish and Island are both edg­ing clos­er to being in the Yes camp; the no vote in each is now below 50.40%. The high no vote in Pierce, Spokane and oth­er key swing coun­ties is also com­ing down, sug­gest­ing that the Yes on I‑522 cam­paign’s response to the No side’s mis­in­for­ma­tion had a pos­i­tive and pro­nounced effect.

Had I‑522 start­ed out in a bet­ter posi­tion on Elec­tion Night, I’d prob­a­bly be dis­cussing the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a come from behind win in this post.

But unfor­tu­nate­ly the $23 mil­lion plus spent by Mon­san­to, DuPont, and the big processed food com­pa­nies that tried to hide behind the skirts of the Gro­cery Man­u­fac­tur­ers Asso­ci­a­tion had an effect. The no side went to great lengths to spread fear, uncer­tain­ty, and doubt (FUD), tar­get­ing vot­ers in swing coun­ties. The good news is, they are not going to get the blowout win that they want­ed in Wash­ing­ton. The mes­sage they were hop­ing to send will not be sent.

Para­dox­i­cal­ly, it appears that as these big cor­po­ra­tions increas­ing­ly dumped more mon­ey into their cam­paign cof­fers, they got less of a return. Vot­ers per­ceived that pow­er­ful inter­ests were try­ing to buy their votes and pur­chase an elec­tion (in part based on news cov­er­age and adver­tis­ing) and react­ed to that.

Our hope is that by the time the elec­tion is cer­ti­fied, the spread will be even nar­row­er, and the No vote will be below 52%.

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  1. I cam­paigned for Propo­si­tion 37 in Cal­i­for­nia, also to Label GMO prod­ucts. Heavy spend­ing by oppo­nents defeat­ed it here. I hope the same is not true in Wash­ing­ton State, but mon­ey talks.

    # by John Kohler :: November 8th, 2013 at 9:57 AM
  2. So close, might we have recount of the votes?

    # by D :: November 8th, 2013 at 7:52 PM
    • That’s not like­ly. Yes on I‑522 would have to win 73% of the votes remain­ing to be processed just to get to 50%.

      # by Andrew :: November 9th, 2013 at 10:42 AM
  3. So what? You lost anyway.

    # by jt went :: November 8th, 2013 at 9:30 PM
    • JT, it’s sig­nif­i­cant that coun­ties are flip­ping from no to yes. Elec­tions, leg­is­la­tion, cur­rent events and pub­lic affairs are what we talk about here on The Advo­cate. I take it that since you stopped by, it’s some­thing you’re inter­est­ed in… so not sure why you’d leave a com­ment say­ing “So what?”

      And, I think you meant to say “You’re los­ing” … because the elec­tion has not been cer­ti­fied yet. After the vote-count­ing has con­clud­ed, and assum­ing the No side’s lead holds as we expect it to, you can use the past tense.

      # by Andrew :: November 9th, 2013 at 10:45 AM
  4. I am pleased to see the defeat of I‑522. Instead of whin­ing about Mon­san­to’s wal­let, label­ing advo­cates should work to fix the sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems with I‑522 that led informed peo­ple to vote against it. Though adver­tised as sup­port­ing “the right to know what is in our food”, I‑522 man­dat­ed no infor­ma­tion at all about food con­tent, and incon­sis­tent­ly labeled one method of genet­ic engineering. 

    I‑522 was designed sole­ly to serve the inter­ests of anti-GMO activists who want to elim­i­nate trans­genic tech­nol­o­gy no mat­ter what it is used for or how many sci­en­tif­ic pan­els declare it safe. Instead, right-to-know advo­cates could get informed con­sumers on their side by requir­ing labels with infor­ma­tion about spe­cif­ic trans­genes that allow vot­ers to know what is in their food and how it is made, and to dis­tin­guish between, say, trans­genic ren­net (which is used in near­ly all cheeses and is safer, pur­er, cheap­er, more humane, and more envi­ron­men­tal­ly sound than ren­net from calf stom­achs) or gold­en rice (which adds vit­a­min A pre­cur­sors to rice and has great poten­tial to help pre­vent deaths from vit­a­min A defi­cien­cy in Asia) from oth­er prod­ucts like Round-up Ready soy­bean (whose eco­log­i­cal impacts are more controversial). 

    Vir­tu­al­ly every­one sup­ports the right to know what is in food, and it was the sig­nif­i­cant fail­ing of I‑522 to deliv­er use­ful infor­ma­tion on food con­tent, along with its arbi­trary label­ing exemp­tions for cheese and alco­hol, that led many to oppose it. Exemp­tions for cheese and alco­hol orig­i­nat­ed in the Euro­pean label­ing laws on which I‑522 was based, but they exist to serve the inter­est of the Euro­pean cheese and alco­hol indus­tries, which are cen­turies old and adopt­ed trans­genic tech­nol­o­gy quick­ly at a time when trans­genic crop plants were rare in Europe and viewed as Amer­i­can imports com­pet­ing with Euro­pean farm prod­ucts. Thus both GMO label­ing laws for plants and the exemp­tions for cheese and alco­hol were designed to pro­tect indige­nous indus­tries in Europe. There is no rea­son to per­pet­u­ate this dou­ble-stan­dard of label­ing in Amer­i­ca, except that anti-GMO activists pre­fer to make the pub­lic think that all trans­genic tech­nol­o­gy is about Mon­san­to, and would be hap­py to keep the enor­mous safe­ty, eco­nom­ic, eco­log­i­cal, and moral ben­e­fits of trans­genic ren­net poor­ly known.

    Label­ing laws could serve the inter­ests of both those who want to avoid trans­genic crops and of more pro­gres­sive food advo­cates who real­ize the enor­mous poten­tial of trans­genic tech­nol­o­gy to improve health, food qual­i­ty, crop yields, and eco­log­i­cal adap­tion to cli­mate change, if those labels went beyond vague and incon­sis­tent­ly applied phras­es that have been the tar­get of decades-long fear-mon­ger­ing and dis­in­for­ma­tion cam­paigns, and instead pro­vid­ed the detailed infor­ma­tion need­ed to edu­cate con­sumers about trans­genic technology. 

    Real pro­gres­sives will sup­port edu­ca­tion about trans­genic tech­nol­o­gy, whether they favor it or not, by advo­cat­ing for con­sis­tent labels that pro­vide the infor­ma­tion con­sumers need to under­stand the genet­ic alter­ations, pur­pose, and avail­able research on each trans­genic prod­uct, and will hope­ful­ly be equal­ly enthu­si­as­tic about pro­mot­ing under­stand­ing of oth­er genet­ic tech­nolo­gies, which have far more rad­i­cal­ly altered our food and ecol­o­gy than has trans­genic tech­nol­o­gy. The gen­er­al igno­rance about the many kinds of genet­ic alter­ations that hap­pen in nature and in tra­di­tion­al crop breed­ing con­tribute to the per­cep­tion that trans­genic tech­nol­o­gy rep­re­sents some kind of nov­el threat. 

    Besides pro­vid­ing accu­rate and detailed infor­ma­tion, a sen­si­ble label­ing law would put the label on the back with oth­er food infor­ma­tion, not cre­ate a spe­cial label on the front giv­ing the impres­sion that the trans­genic nature of the prod­uct is some­how its most impor­tant fea­ture. That is a judg­ment for the con­sumer to make, not anti-GMO activists. A label­ing law is achiev­able if it serves the broad inter­ests of all con­sumers, not just anti-GMO activists.

    # by Paul Talbert :: November 9th, 2013 at 10:39 AM
  5. I was hop­ing for a win for now, what we need to do is ban the sale and grow­ing of these crops. Mex­i­co has already banned the grow­ing of GMO corn. Before long our export mar­ket will crash as Coun­tries who are inter­est­ed in their Coun­try and it’s cit­i­zens ban the import of these crops!The prob­lem is these crops will., spread to oth­er fields till all crops are contaminated,
    So if any one thinks they can just eat organ­ic their wrong.
    While were at it we need to demand our food be labeled with Coun­try of ori­gin or coun­try of pro­cess­ing, So we don’t have to eat the Chi­ne­ses seafood that is fed raw sewage!

    # by walter selby :: November 9th, 2013 at 12:47 PM
  6. It is much more pro­duc­tive to spend the sev­er­al mil­lion dol­lars that were donat­ed to “Yes on 522” on fund­ing label changes for those pro­duc­ers who would like to add “gmo free” labels to their prod­ucts. For­get about mon­san­to and the oth­er “mod­i­fiers” — pro­mote the “gmo free” con­cept and work to make that a sta­ple in the diet of amer­i­can stom­achs and minds.

    # by Scott :: November 25th, 2013 at 8:28 PM

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