How Big Food Secretly Spent $11 million to Beat Washington State GMO Labeling Measure

Friday, February 19, 2016


The Grocery Manufacturers Association covered up $11 million in corporate payments for an aggressive ad campaign that helped defeat a Washington State GMO labeling ballot initiative, according to previously secret documents disclosed this week by Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson.

"GMA engaged in an elaborate scheme to unlawfully shield its members' contributions from public scrutiny. They need to be held accountable," Ferguson said Wednesday

The Washington State official made public documents obtained during the state’s lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, the food industry’s leading trade association, for allegedly violating Washington’s campaign finance laws.  They show that major food and beverage makers, among them, Pepsi-Co, Coca-Cola, Nestle and General Mills, contributed more than $11 million to a secret account maintained by GMA as a   subterfuge that concealed the corporations’ involvement in an intense ad campaign opposing a 2013 a state ballot initiative that called for labeling of food containing GMO ingredients.

In the end, Washington voters rejected the ballot initiative by a vote of 54.8 percent to 45.2 percent. 

The documents show that GMA set up its secret account apparently to avoid criticism incurred by major food and agribusiness companies that spent $43 million in 2012 in California to defeat a GMO labeling initiative.

An EWG analysis conducted last year concluded that major food and agribusiness interests were flooding the GMO labeling fight with millions of dollars of contributions. In the past three years alone, these companies have spent more than $143 million to defeat state and federal GMO labeling legislation.

It’s past time to hold big food companies accountable and demand that they disclose what’s in our food.  As well, we need to know what they’re doing to avoid telling Americans what they have the right to know. With big food spending lavishly, and, as the Washington State lawsuit shows, deploying shady tactics, we need all the help we can get to defeat the DARK Act.


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