"I believe it is none of our business what we're putting in our mouths," Stephen Colbert joked about Washington's GMO labeling bill on Wednesday night. "I want genetically modified foods. Because you are what you eat and I'm hoping one day a mutant tomato can give me heat vision."
On Tuesday, voters in Washington state rejected a ballot measure that would have required the mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods. While more mail-in ballots are still to be counted, Initiative 522 was failing 46 percent to 54 percent as of Wednesday evening, reported the Associated Press.
The $46 million raised by opponents of the initiative, including Monsanto Co., DuPont Pioneer and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, topped the $7.9 million raised by supporters. Only six percent of all funds raised came from within Washington state, noted the AP.
Supporters of GMO labeling argue that consumers have a right to know what's in their food in order to make informed choices. Opponents have argued that labeling could raise food prices.
Scientific American's Michael Moyer said on HuffPost Live on Monday that GMO labeling could also limit consumer choice. "What we've seen in Europe has shown that measures such as required labeling go on to actually lessen consumer choice," Moyer said. "They become a de facto warning label for people, saying, 'Watch out, there's something different and wrong here, and you would be best to avoid this,' which is, I think, really what a lot of the pro-labeling people would like."
A similar labeling initiative, whose supporters were also widely outspent by the food and biotechnology industries, was defeated in California in 2012. Maine and Connecticut have both passed GMO labeling requirements, but neither state's law will go into effect until neighboring states do the same.
GMOs are living organisms, including plants and animals, that have had their genetic code altered. The technology is often used in plants, like corn and soybeans, that are engineered to be more drought-tolerant, resistant to herbicides or produce proteins that are toxic to insects, among other traits. The Grocery Manufacturers Association has said that 75 to 80 percent of conventional processed foods in the U.S. contain genetically-engineered ingredients.
Regarding the safety of GMO foods, the World Health Organization says:
Different GM organisms include different genes inserted in different ways. This means that individual GM foods and their safety should be assessed on a case-by-case basis and that it is not possible to make general statements on the safety of all GM foods.