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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%.


  1. John Kohler
    Posted November 8th, 2013 at 9:57 AM | Permalink

    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.

  2. D
    Posted November 8th, 2013 at 7:52 PM | Permalink

    So close, might we have recount of the votes?

  3. Andrew
    Posted November 9th, 2013 at 10:42 AM | Permalink

    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%.

  4. jt went
    Posted November 8th, 2013 at 9:30 PM | Permalink

    So what? You lost anyway.

  5. Andrew
    Posted November 9th, 2013 at 10:45 AM | Permalink

    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.

  6. Paul Talbert
    Posted November 9th, 2013 at 10:39 AM | Permalink

    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.

  7. walter selby
    Posted November 9th, 2013 at 12:47 PM | Permalink

    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!

  8. Posted November 25th, 2013 at 8:28 PM | Permalink

    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.

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