Washington is the latest battleground for GMO labeling, and now a food lobby that's spent millions to prevent citizens from voting yes on 522 is under investigation for campaign finance violations.
As Organic Authority reported previously, The Grocery Manufacturer's Association (GMA) has contributed more than $7 million in an effort to prevent the GMO labeling measure from becoming law. Now, the Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson has filed a lawsuit against the GMA, alleging the group illegally collected and spent that money on behalf of major food and biotech companies.
The lawsuit states that the GMA may have "illegally concealed the identity of those donors from the public by failing to register and file reports as a political committee," according to a report in the Seattle Times.
The Seattle Times also reports that in "a Feb. 18 memo obtained by the Attorney General’s office, Pamela Bailey, CEO of the grocery association, discussed creating a new GMA fund, subsequently called the Defense of Brand Strategic Account, 'to combat current threats and better shield individual companies from attack that provide funding for specific efforts.' That memo specifically mentioned the need 'to fight Washington state’s ballot measure.'"
Attorney General Bob Ferguson demanded that the GMA immediately disclose its donors or face a temporary restraining order that would force the grocery association to register as a political committee.
According to a press release from Just Label It (JLI), GMA chose to comply. Unsurprisingly, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills, and Kellogg's Co. were among the companies who gave more than $7.2 million to the No on 522 campaign, according to paperwork filed with Washington State Public Disclosure Commission.
“It’s no surprise to learn that the same companies who fought GE labeling in California are behind the No on I-522 campaign in Washington State,” said JLI’s executive director Scott Faber. “These companies should take full responsibility for hiding behind GMA and defend their position against denying consumers’ their right to know what’s in their food.”
Residents in Washington State will begin casting their votes on Friday on I-522, which would require food manufacturers who use GE ingredients to label their products.
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Image via Yes on 522