The fight over whether consumers should be alerted if food contains genetically modified ingredients has become one of the most expensive ballot initiatives in Washington State history, raking in $29 million in contributions from around the globe. Multinational companies Monsanto, General Mills, Pepsi, and Kellogg have led the no-labeling charge, to protect their products from a GMO (genetically modified organism) stigma. They are pitted against Whole Foods, the whimsical Dr. Bronner's soap company, the Center for Food Safety, and the Organic Consumers Association, which argue for giving consumers more information to make purchasing decisions, as information continues to emerge about the potential impacts from genetically modified foods.
If the initiative succeeds, Washington would become the first state to mandate immediate GMO labeling. The measure enjoyed a broad margin of support until recent weeks, when its heavyweight opponents blasted the state's airwaves with ads warning of rising food prices, if avoidance of the GMO label forces companies to find new ingredients.
A similar measure in California lost last November, after Monsanto produced a last-minute burst of ad money to defeat it. Connecticut and Maine passed GMO labeling laws this summer, but to limit any competitive disadvantage, they will take effect only if and when other states pass similar regulations.