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GMO Labeling Battle in Washington State Off To Familiar Start

Nobody is calling it “Little GMO” after California’s “Big GMO” yet, but Initiative 522 in Washington State looks like it is on the same track as the Golden State’s ill-fated Proposition 37. Except it has a shot at winning.

In 1990, when the two states ran similar environmental initiatives they became know as “Big Green” and “Little Green.” They both lost. But after last year’s stunning defeat in California, the national movement for labeling food and beverages containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) thinks it has a real shot in Washington State.

The latest campaign finance reports from the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission show some familiar players are showing up for the Evergreen State rematch and again being more than generous with their check-writing.

While the early momentum is probably on the side of the proponents, a fast-starting “No on 522” has already received almost $1 million from five big guns–the Grocery Manufacturers Association ($472,500), Monsanto (242,156.25), DuPont Pioneer ($171,281.25), Bayer Cropscience ($29,531.25), and Dow Agroscience LLC ($29,531.25).

But in Washington State, the “No on 522” committee’s early spending has also garnered attention. It has spent about $110,000 bringing Santa Monica-based Winner & Mandabach Campaigns into the contest. Brad Shannon, political writer for the Daily Olympian newspaper in Washington’s capital city, says Winner & Mandabach has a “track record of winning high stakes campaigns.”

According to Shannon, the California media powerhouse has three recent wins in Washington State—for charter schools, against a soda tax, and for privatization of state liquor stores.

Still, I-522 proponents have the larger campaign going at the moment. The “Yes on 522” committee has raised over $2.1 million and spent just over $326,000. The group’s big donors are also familiar to anyone who followed the Prop 37 campaign.

Escondido, CA-based Dr. Bonner’s Magic Soaps is already in for $700,000. Hoffman Estates, IL-based Mercola.com Health Resources has contributed $200,000 to the “Yes” campaign. The Organic Consumer Fund has made two contributions totaling $380,000.

Barrington, IL-based Presence Marketing’s two checks total $200,000. And the Center for Food Safety Action Fund and Nature’s Path Foods USA Inc., based in Blaine, WA, each gave $100,000.

The “Label It Washington” campaign, which funded the paid signature drive to qualify I-522 as an initiative to the Legislature, also got $50,000 from Dr. Bonner’s.

Just as Prop 37 did in California, most observers believe I-522 is starting out with a solid early lead. In California, the opposition outspent proponents, who also had an early lead,  by better than a 4-to-1 margin — using a $46 million air and grassroots campaign to scratch out a narrow win.

For Washington State, a campaign of national interest is something of an economic development opportunity. Money is going to pour in from organic and liberal groups on one side and from agribusiness and the mainstream food industry on the other side.

The “Yes” campaign is stressing the public’s right to know what is in their food, while generally staying away from claims that GMOs are unsafe to eat. The “No” campaign will tell Evergreen State voters such labeling will just food costs without any benefit basis.

Those were familiar refrains in the “Big GMO” campaign .

© Food Safety News
  • Carlo Silvestr

    Big chem is attempting to squelch the public’s right to know. It really makes me wonder why. What is Monsanto and its ilk trying to hide that’s so important that they’re willing to spend millions of dollars fighting our right to know? Food will cost more if the labeling bill passes, so they say, but where are they getting the millions that they’re willing to spend on this negative campaign? This is a good example of why I get sick of politics. These large companies will bring out the same group of frauds to say that there’s nothing wrong with GMOs and that the public doesn’t need to know if products have GMOs. Then they’ll spend millions to browbeat the public into supporting their side. I guess they’re sure that money buys the votes. I, for one, hope that they’re wrong. I hope that the voters in Washington State won’t be misguided by the money and the slick campaigning that it will buy. We have a right to know.

  • Ms. Consumer

    As a consumer in the State of Washington, it is, without a doubt, another concern that money is talking in the polls, instead of people. I demand to know what is in the food I purchase, I have the right to complain and demand. The few dollars I can afford to spend for food also pays taxes & wages of the corporate fields involved. At this point because there are those who just don’t care if we the consumer know what is basically going on, we can only hope for a win in having foods in our state labeled ‘with or without’ GMO. I say put the info of this Initiative #522 on the front pages so people know what is or even could be going on, behind their backs.

    • Al Prazolam

      Glad to see that you can spot the most important factor in this campaign!

  • El3737

    “The “Yes” campaign is stressing the public’s right to know what is in their food, while generally staying away from claims that GMOs are unsafe to eat.”
    SAME feckless approach used in California. Prepare to watch the lead evaporate. So sorry to see the same bunch that ran Yes on 37′s lead into the ground now running I-522. Big Biotech and Big Food must be dancing in the halls.
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jonathan-greenberg/ten-grassroots-lessons-fr_b_2114553.html

  • Ken Kailing

    Lets be a little more specific about local special interests that may (already are) trying to defeat this initiative; how about some real investigative reporting on “who” , “why” and “how” say, beginning with the Gates Foundation, even indirectly and paid GMO supporters within the University of Washington as through specific research funded by Monsanto; got a start?

  • RobertWager
    • bobf

      “It should be noted that absolute avoidance of all risk is not achievable.” is stated in that document. Thus, one should allow people to know which foods are genetically modified to minimize their risk, if they so desire.

    • Raj

      Sure, there’s an objective source, the AMA! Right alongside the FDA and Monsanto, Bayer, Syngenta, Basf, and the whole lot. That’s a laugh. The AMA pushes pharmaceuticals that kill more than 100,000 people every year, check the FDA website page for adverse reactions.

      If you want to start, expand your mind. Maybe Scientific American would be a credible source for you: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=do-seed-companies-control-gm-crop-research

      Or google:
      Scientific American, Do Seed Companies Control GM Crop Research?

  • InformedShopper

    Considering some of the studies I’ve seen linking GMO foods w/ higher cancer rates, as well as other endemic illnesses, I absolutely want to know what I’m getting at the market! If paying a little more for it is the cost, then so be it. The way I see it, they’re hiking up the food pricing continually anyway, so it won’t make much of a difference in the long run, and at least I’ll be able to make an informed choice about WHAT I’m buying.

  • Al Prazolam

    Sooner or later people are going to realize that this is bigger than just the issue of GMO labeling. Another dimension of this story is the public’s right to know who is spending money on what. By effectively reporting on the huge piles of cash that are injected into issues like this, people will understand more and more that corporate profits will ALWAYS be put ahead of the constituent’s rights to be informed and make healthier choices. What are they scared of?

  • Anita M. Buffer

    Americans are not asking to take GMO’s off the shelves…………we’re asking to KNOW what’s in OUR food. That is an American Right. Obviously, they’re afraid people will chose not to by products genetically modified. Not a good enough reason to lie by omission. There’s more to America than just making a profit.

  • ml01106

    The public wants to know why GMO’s are targeted. Give us the lowdown…………over and over if necessary. It’s a long ,complicated and ugly story that needs to be out there.

  • drewsky51

    Spot-on! Could you imagine any car company not putting their badge on the hood ? What do these people have to be ashamed about, right ?

  • abenton54

    Corporate “dough” trumps “Right to Know”!

    • artemis6

      I hope NOT !

  • LowGear

    Ignorance is a beautiful thing.

  • heather166

    I question that GMO wheat caused an allergic reaction, because it has yet to be marketed in the US. From Wikipedia: The transgenic wheat that was furthest developed was Monsanto’s MON 71800, which is glyphosate-resistant via a CP4/maize EPSPS gene.[27] Monsanto received approval from the FDA for its use in food, but withdrew its EPA application in 2004, so the product was never marketed. It also received approval for use as food in Columbia.[28]
    Heather166

  • Ginnie

    The GMOs are showing up in organic crops too… Pollen is carried on the wind from fields adjacent or miles away.

  • Cindy Trautmeyer

    I would like to get the established big religions into this fight for GMO labeling. Combating the GMOs clandestine operations in our media, courts, state, academic, and political institutions needs allies with strong religious and moral arguments for equal tolerance and respect. You may be not a sympathizer with any or a particular faith but you well know the power organizations of faith can yield in political debates. You will find open ears, hearts, shared concerns, and support there. Especially the worries about future generations of humans.

    Just one example: Rabbis, priests, evangelical preachers all have the Genesis in common and can mobilize their communities.

    “Then God said, “Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit AFTER THEiR KIND with seed in them”; and it was so. The earth brought forth vegetation, plants yielding seed AFTER THEiR KIND, and trees bearing fruit with seed in them, AFTER THEiR KIND; and God saw that it was good.” ~ Genesis 1:11-12

    The Islamic Jurisprudence Council and Islamic Food and Nutrition Council of America take the position that foods derived from GMO’s should be labeled as well.

  • Nithin@Care2

    Polls show 90% support labeling…so why doesn’t it exist? Montanso money. That’s what ruined the push in California – $47 MILLION dollars worth.

    Washington needs to stand up strong! Sign this petition to stop Monsanto’s lies and support GMO labeling in Washington State

    http://www.thepetitionsite.com/584/264/860/stop-monsanto-support-gmo-labling-in-washington-state/

  • Oginikwe

    Part of the problem with the California initiative was that it made the grocer responsible for the labeling rather than the manufacturer/supplier. That, for many people, was the problem.

  • NO2GMO

    NaturalNews) Remember the private mercenary army Blackwater that caused such a stir in Iraq during an unprovoked attack in 2007? Apparently, Monsanto and the controversial security firm are in bed together, described by blogger Randy Ananda as “a death-tech firm weds a hit squad.” At this point, you might be wondering what in the world the GM seed giant needs with the services of a ‘shadow army’? It appears as though the corporation found it necessary to contract with Blackwater in order to collect intelligence on anti-Monsanto activists as well infiltrate their ranks.

    Learn more: http://www.naturalnews.com/040492_GMO_activists_Monsanto_blackwater.html#ixzz2hwMuxzcl