University Place, WA—In the aftermath of the defeat of California’s Proposition 37, activists in the state of Washington are close to placing another genetically modified organism (GMO) labeling measure on a ballot. I-522, “The People’s Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act,” was submitted to state officials with 350,000 signatures from potential voters on January 3.

The Secretary of State for Washington advised Label it Wa, the name of the group behind the effort, that collecting 320,000 signatures should ensure that at least 241,153, the number actually required to create a ballot measure, are valid signatures. Through volunteers and paid signature gatherers, social media and a dedicated Web site, the group gathered signatures in a short amount of time. Organizers were aware of the dollars that opponents of California’s Prop 37 dedicated to defeating that measure, which would have required that foods containing GMOs be labeled as such, and were relying on the financial support of GMO-labeling supporters.

I-522 is very similar to Prop 37 in language and effect, but seems to have dispensed with some of Prop 37’s ambiguity regarding the status of “natural” foods, which caused some parties such as the Natural Products Association (NPA) to withhold support. In contrast, it has been reported that the Northwest branch of NPA has pledged support amounting to $10,000 to I-522. The initiative, as written, includes clauses referring to 60 day notices and civil penalties from the Department of Health to serve as a legal framework and enforcement mechanism for the GMO-labeling requirement.

Published in WholeFoods Magazine, February 2013