Large contributions from multinational food companies, mostly in opposition to the measure, have surged into the state, making this one of the most expensive initiative battles in Washington’s history, totaling almost $29 million. And both sides say that if it passes, the measure, known as Initiative 522, could spur other states to similar action.
Companies like the big seed company Monsanto, General Mills, Pepsi and Kellogg are fighting the measure through contributions to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, outspending supporters by about three to one. Supporters, however, have their own economic heft, notably the support of Whole Foods, which has been working closely with the staff of the Yes on 522 campaign group, and the organic farming industry, which would be exempt from the measure.
Modifying the genes of food crops to increase yield or resistance to pests or herbicides has become a fixture of global agriculture. Skeptics say the safety record for such products is unclear, or that modified foods have not been around long enough for certainty.
In Washington, transparency and cost have been fighting words.