Wash. food-labeling campaign draws millions from out of state

SEATTLE (AP) - Washington's voters are deciding whether to label food that contains genetically modified ingredients in a campaign that has drawn millions of dollars from out of state.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, which collected money from some of the nation's top food companies, and five major corporations have raised $22 million to defeat Initiative 522. Food-labeling supporters have raised $7.8 million, backed by Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps and consumer groups.

I-522 supporters say consumers have the right to know what's in the food they buy, while opponents say the measure would lead to higher food costs.

Early polling showed voters supporting the measure. But a barrage of TV and radio spots from labeling foes in recent weeks have helped close the gap. Recent polling shows the race is too close to call.

If voters approve 522, Washington state would be the first state to enact labeling requirements for foods with genetically engineered ingredients. Connecticut passed a labeling law last summer that doesn't take effect until several other states pass similar laws.

LeRoy Pilant, a real estate agent from Spokane, said he voted in favor of the measure because he wants full disclosure.

"I want to know so I could choose whether to eat a product and not have them (corporations) mask what they're doing," he said. "It irritates me to no end that they brought all this money into the state to mask what they're doing with our food supply."

Dylan Wilbanks, a product designer from Seattle, said it was a tough choice but he voted against 522 after reading the studies.

"It's difficult to choose to vote for corporations. It feels wrong in every single way, but I felt that I had to choose between corporations versus a view on science I couldn't accept," he said. "At the end of the day, I can't vote for fear, I have to vote for reason."