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Washington State Says 'No' To GMO Labels

Voters appear to have defeated another attempt to require labels on genetically modified foods in Washington state. In early counts, the "no" campaign has what appears to be an insurmountable lead with 54 percent of votes.

The ballot initiative would require labels on the front of packages for most food products, seeds and commodities like soy or corn if they were produced using genetic engineering.

The push to require labeling had strong support in the polls a couple of months ago. But as the TV ad war heated up over the past few weeks, popular opinion swung against the idea of a mandatory GMO label on most groceries.

Out-of-state companies such as Monsanto, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestle poured millions into the campaign against labeling, which argued that adding GMO designations would make food more expensive, and confuse consumers. In ads, they said the labels would increase the price of food for a three-person household by $350 to $400 a year.

In October, Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, said that estimate was too high.

The Yes on 522 campaign raised nearly $7.9 million of its own money, including large contributions from "natural" product companies, like Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps of California.

As of Thursday morning, the website of the campaign favoring GMO labels was reporting the vote as "still too close to call." Campaign officials say they won't give up until the thousands of mail-in ballots yet to be counted are tallied. The final result will be certified by the state on Dec. 5.

A similar labeling initiative was defeated last year in California. But Maine and Connecticut passed labeling laws this summer (though both include stipulations that they won't take effect unless more states do the same).

For more on the debate over GMOs in Washington state, check out Martin's October story.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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