Washington state voters rejected Initiative Measure No. 522, which would have required food labels—presumably including dietary supplement labels—to disclose any ingredients derived from genetically engineered plants or animals.
Early polling showed broad support for I-522, which was one of the costliest initiative fights in state history. Leading up to the vote, supporters and opponents reportedly spent a combined total of nearly $30 million dollars on their respective campaigns. With just under 1 million votes counted, 55 percent voted against and 45 percent voted for this new law. Hundreds of thousands of votes may still need to be counted, but most observers see this margin as too large to overcome, though advocates of the initiative have not conceded.
Yesterday's vote in Washington closely mirrors the vote last year in California on a similar initiative known as Proposition 37. That issue also saw early voter support, attracted millions of dollars in spending by both sides and ultimately failed by a similar margin, 53 percent to 47 percent.
The American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) has been working since July 2007 to find a practical solution for the labeling of products with GMO ingredients. AHPA expressed formal support in 2007 for labeling consumer goods to identify any herbal raw agricultural ingredients knowingly and intentionally cultivated with GMO technologies. Following the vote on California's Proposition 37 in 2013, AHPA adopted an additional policy to promote the creation of a federal safe harbor for accurately labeling foods and supplements with regard to the presence or absence of genetically engineered ingredients.
"AHPA continues to promote consumers' right to be informed when GMO ingredients are in the foods they choose," said AHPA President Michael McGuffin. "We remain committed to this right and view federal legislation that creates a standard for voluntary disclosure of absence of GMO ingredients as the most pragmatic approach. I will be reaching out to AHPA members, including those who supported Proposition 37 and Initiative 522, to build consensus on this."