Food Companies Give Millions to Block GMO Labeling

Business association accused of laundering campaign donations


In our view it’s a clear violation.

Bob Ferguson, attorney general, Washington state

On Nov. 5, Washington state voters will decide whether the state will become the first in the nation to require labeling for genetically engineered ingredients. Companies have spent millions to oppose the grass-roots measure, but until recently many have managed to keep their identities a secret.

The group Moms for Labeling was the first to accuse the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) of violating the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws. The group said GMA was laundering donations from the companies it represents, to protect them from consumer backlash. A judge dismissed the case on a technicality.

On Oct. 16, Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed another suit. His lawsuit worked.

The day after the state suit was filed, GMA disclosed the names of 34 of the nation’s best known food and beverage brands, and the financial contributions each made to a campaign to defeat voter initiative 522.

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“In our view it’s a clear violation. It’s an important violation, particularly given the size and amount of dollars that we’re talking about,” Ferguson said at a news conference in Seattle.

$17 Million to Defeat Inititative

Contributions to the campaign to defeat I-522 so far total over $17 million. Food companies contributed over $7 million. According to the Seattle Times, opponents of Washington’s I-522 have broken the state record for raising money against a statewide initiative.

The list of companies, including PepsiCo, Campbell’s Soup, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Hershey, Nestlé USA, and others, reveals many of the same brand names that contributed to the campaign to defeat California’s labeling initiative in 2012.

According to a December 2012 directive from the GMA board, concealing the identity of campaign contributors was a strategy to fund I-522 opposition “while better shielding individual companies from attack for providing funding.”

In an Oct. 17 statement, GMA said that its voluntary disclosure of individual contributors aimed to provide Washington voters with “full transparency.”

“GMA is taking this action to allow the campaign to focus on the important issues related to the I-522 ballot proposal itself, and to put an end to unnecessary distraction and speculation about sources and amounts of funding,” the trade group said.

 

Pinnacle Foods Group LLC $120,846
The J. M. Smucker Company $241,091 
Rich Products Corporation $24,049 
General Mills, Inc. $598,819 
PepsiCo, Inc. $1,620,899 
Bunge North America, Inc. $94,993 
Bumble Bee Foods, LLC $36,073 
Bush Brothers & Company A $16,233 
Moody Dunbar, Inc. $1,804 
Dean Foods Company $120,245 
Kellogg Company$ 221,852 
Nestlé USA, Inc. $1,052,743 
ConAgra Foods $285,281 
Bimbo Bakeries USA $94,693 
Welch Foods, Inc. $28,859 
Knouse Foods Cooperative, Inc. $14,429 
Bruce Foods Corporation $3,006 
Abbott Nutrition $127,459 
Campbell Soup Company $265,140 
Del Monte Foods Company $86,576 
Sunny Delight Beverages Company$ 21,043 
Shearer’s Foods, Inc. -$ 25,251 
Mondelez Global LLC $144,895 
Land O’Lakes, Inc. $99,803 
The Coca-Cola Company $1,047,332 
The Hillshire Brands Company $97,398 
The Hershey Company $248,305 
Hormel Foods Corporation $52,908 
Clement Pappas & Company, Inc. $21,043 
McCormick & Company, Inc. $102,208 
Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. $55,313 
Flowers Foods, Inc. $141,288 
Cargill, Inc. $98,601 
The Clorox Company $12,024 

Total $ 7,222,500



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