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Referendum on Food Labels Is failing in Washington

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Minnesota News page.

A referendum in Washington state on labels for foods containing genetically engineered ingredients appears headed for defeat, a relief for food companies in Minnesota and elsewhere that worked to defeat it.

But the measure's supporters, including a Minnesota-based consumers group, say the fight's not over: State-by-state labeling campaigns will continue to surface.

The Washington measure was failing 55 percent to 45 percent Wednesday, although vote counting was incomplete. The referendum was the costliest in the state's history, as money - particularly from biotech and food industries - poured in to fund advertising. Minnesota's General Mills, Cargill, Hormel Foods and Land O'Lakes all contributed.

Most corn, soybeans and sugar beets raised in the U.S. spring from genetically engineered seeds. Federal safety regulators have approved the technology and it has the imprimatur of several science groups. But suspicions over its safety remain, spurring campaigns for labeling.

"It obviously seems the voters in Washington have rejected this costly and complex measure," said Louis Finkel, head of federal affairs for the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group. Its members argue that labeling would raise costs by forcing companies to make labeling runs for an individual state, or to substitute costlier ingredients that are not genetically engineered.   

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