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GMO Labeling Initiative in Washington Headed toward Defeat?

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OLYMPIA, Wash.Opponents of an initiative requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods had reason to celebrate last night. Washington voters had rejected Initiative 522 by a margin of 54.8% (536,272 votes) to 45.2% (442,127 votes), according to data that was last updated Nov. 5 at 8:46 p.m. from the Office of the Secretary of State.

"This is a clear victory for Washington consumers, taxpayers and family farmers across our state," said Dana Bieber, spokesperson for the No on 522 campaign, in a statement last night. "Washington voters have soundly rejected this badly written and deceptive initiative."

It might be too soon for Bieber to pop open the champagne.

Washington officials still don't know what hundreds of thousands of voters have decided. As of last night, there were 335,626 ballots that still needed to be counted.

The figure will increase because voters had until 8 p.m. yesterday to drop off their ballots or have them postmarked, said Lori Augino, director of elections for the Office of the Secretary of State.

The current data represents results for 25% of registered voters, Augino said in a phone interview. Officials anticipate about 45% of voters will have participated in the election, she said, below earlier predictions of the historical average of 51%.

In King's County, home to Seattle, the measure has passed by a margin of 55.7% (144,697 votes) to 44.2% (114,810 votes). But in rural Adams County, where farming is important, voters soundly rejected 522 by a margin of 79.3% (1,605 votes) to 20.7% (418 votes).

Supporters of 522 have maintained consumers have a right to know if they are eating foods that contain genetically modified organisms or GMOs. Opponents have argued the measure would require misleading food labels, increase the costs of groceries and provide exemptions for hundreds of foods even if they were made with or contain GMOs.

Similar arguments were made in California last year where Proposition 37 was defeated.

According to the Seattle Times, opponents contributed a record $22 million to defeat the measure, about three times the $8 million in support raised by the other side.

The Yes on 522 campaign did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

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