Biotech Giants Spend Millions to Defeat GMO Labeling

By Heide B. Malhotra
Heide B. Malhotra
Heide B. Malhotra
October 2, 2013 Updated: October 2, 2013

Giant bio-technology corporations like Monsanto Co. and DuPont Pioneer have spent millions of dollars to defeat efforts to label foods that contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Now their efforts turn to Washington state where a vote on the issue is scheduled for Nov. 5. 

More than 40 countries already require that food labels identify whether products contain GMOs. The labeling bill in Washington state seeks to label but not ban foods that contain genetically modified ingredients. 

“Labeling genetically engineered foods would give shoppers more control over their shopping decisions,” reads a statement on the YES on 522 website funded by proponents of a GMO labeling bill in Washington state. 

Washington Vote Different From California Vote

Washingtonians who support labeling GMO foods initiated a grassroots movement called Yes on 522. The Initiative Measure No. 522 was filed on June 29, 2012.

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In November 2012, a similar action was defeated in California by a narrow margin. The opponents of GMO labeling spent $45.6 million and the pro-labeling group $8.7 million, according to Ballotpedia. 

The Washington vote plays out differently when compared to the California vote. The Washingtonians don’t go to the polls, but vote through the absentee ballot during a three-week period.

Washingtonians have also been against GMO food for some time “because of the ongoing industry efforts to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration for a genetically engineered salmon,” according to Politico. 

The pro-labeling group is winning in polls as of September. They have outpolled those against labeling with a ratio of 3-to-1, according to an Elway Poll.

Millions Spent to Defeat GMO Labeling

The largest and most vocal challengers of I-522 are Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer.

By September, Monsanto and its allies collected $11.6 million and spent $1.7 million, while its opponents raised approximately $5.5 million and spent $1.9 million, according to Ballotpedia. 

In California, Monsanto spent $8.1 million and DuPont $5.4 million to defeat the GMO labeling initiative. The Grocery Manufacturers Association spent $2 million against the effort. The association includes Safeway Inc., Starbucks Corp., Target Corp., Kellogg Co., Kraft Foods Inc., General Mills Inc., Hershey Co., Coca-Cola Co., PepsiCo Inc., and others. 

Biggest Spender Not Necessarily Winner

Proponents of GMO labeling suggest that being outspent does not mean that the measure will be defeated. So far, the odds are in favor of the pro-labeling group. 

Many proponents say that if the opponents have nothing to hide, they wouldn’t spend so much money to defeat a measure that only asks to label GMO products and does not prohibit them.