The Washington State Department of Agriculture has confirmed genetically modified seeds were used to grow a recent crop of alfalfa.
The alfalfa, produced by a Washington farmer, was rejected by foreign buyers last month who ban the use of genetically engineered foods.
The discovery has refueled the debate over food labeling. In November, Washington voters will decide the fate of I-522 which calls for genetically modified foods (GMOs) to be labeled.
"There are 64 countries across the globe that already require labeling and American consumers deserve the same right," said George Kimbrell with the Center for Food Safety. He also co-authored I-522.
Kimbrell said in addition to knowing what's in your food, I-522 could help protect local farmers. Washington state is one of the largest exporters of alfalfa. The local industry brings in approximately $100 million every year.
"When these shipments are rejected, these (export) markets are lost. They don't come back," said Kimbrell.
But more than 30 different agricultural groups oppose I-522.
“I-522 would force Washington farmers and food companies to implement costly new labeling, packaging, distribution and record keeping requirements that do not exist in any other state,” said Mike LaPlant, president of the Washington State Farm Bureau.
Opponents also said I-522 is misleading because some products like alcohol would be exempt from the labeling requirement, even if they contain genetically engineered elements.
The Washington State Department of Agriculture said the genetically modified alfalfa seeds had traits that were well within ranges acceptable to much of the marketplace.