Poll: Big lead for food-labeling initiative

Joel Connelly at the Seattle PI reports:

A new statewide poll found 66 percent of voters saying they will “definitely” or “probably” vote for Initiative 522, which puts labeling requirements on genetically manufactured foods and seeds offered for retail sale in Washington.

Agribusiness interests and major grocery chains spent $46 million to narrowly defeat a similar initiative in California last year. Until Monday,  they have reported raising $3.264 million for the No-on-522 campaign in Washington, a war chest that trails the money so far raised by initiative supporters.

But that changed early Tuesday.  Montsanto just put $4.592 million into the No-on-522 campaign, a sure sign that Washington is in for another big money corporate-fueled campaign in the next two months.

The new Elway Poll, which interviewed 406 voters earlier this month, found 43 percent “definitely” backing the initiative, its support highest among higher income voters and Democrats.  Just 21 percent of those surveyed said they likely or definitely intend to vote no.

Supporters plan to make a splash Wednesday, with celebrity endorser Jerry Greenfield, who co-founded Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream, along with executives from Whole Foods and PCC Natural Markets.

The Seattle City Council has endorsed the initiative.  So has Seattle-base attorney Bill Marler, the nation’s top litigator of food safety lawsuits.

The initiative has been denounced by conservative newspaper editorial writers as unnecessary and a potential burden on Washington agriculture.

The Elway Poll also found an advantage for Tim Eyman’s latest statewide ballot initiative.

I-517 would penalize those who allegedly interfere or retaliate against those collecting signatures on initiatives — principally paid employees of signature-collection firms — and extend the time allowed to collect enough signatures to make the ballot.

The support level for I-517 is currently at 58 percent. But there is room for opponents to do persuading. Just 19 percent said they would “definitely” vote for the Eyman initiative, while 39 percent listed themselves as “probable” supporters. Twenty-two percent voiced an intention to vote no.

Eyman initiatives have confounded pollsters in elections past.

An effort to stymy collection of tolls on state highways, and block Sound Transit light rail from crossing Lake Washington, led in polls two years ago but saw its support collapse in the campaign’s waning days. Other Eyman transportation measures have faltered.

With Eyman’s tax-limitation measures, however, polls have a dropoff of support, only to see passage by comfortable margins in November.

A campaign against I-517 is being planned, and had its organizing session two days ago.  Its organizers have refused to tell anybody what they’re going to do.

The Elway Poll was conducted Sept. 3-5 and has a margin of error of plus/minus 5 percent.