Money pours into GMO labeling initiative

Published online: Aug 03, 2013
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With a little more than three months remaining before Election Day, supporters of a law requiring the labeling of some genetically modified foods have raised $2.3 million for their campaign.

Opponents of Initiative 522 have raised almost $1 million to defeat the measure.

"I know that ultimately we will be outspent," Elizabeth Larter, communications director of Yes on 522, said. "In California, money on the 'no' side came in later."

In California's Proposition 37, which voters rejected in 2012, opponents raised about $44 million while proponents of GMO labeling raised $7.3 million.

The biggest contribution to Washington's Yes on 522 campaign, $700,000, came from Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, a California-based manufacturer of certified organic soaps and personal care products.

Washington-based contributors include the Organic Consumer Fund, Nature's Path Foods and PCC Natural Markets.

"As of the end of July, 80 percent of our donors are from Washington state," Larter said. "There are lots of $5, $10 and $20 donations. It shows that Washingtonians really care about this issue. They're really embracing the message of more transparency."

Contributors to Yes on 522 number in the hundreds, she said.

Nearly all the support for No on 522 has come from five major contributors, all of them from out of state. The Grocery Manufacturers Association has given $472,500, followed by Monsanto, Dupont Pioneer, Bayer Cropscience and Dow Agrosciences.

Brad Harwood, media coordinator for No on 522, said some people have criticized the out-of-state contributions, but the Washington coalition welcomes all the resources that become available.

"We're about as grass-roots as they come," he said. "The coalition includes the Washington State Farm Bureau, the Washington Association of Wheat Growers, the Association of Washington Business and the Northwest Grocery Association."

He also said he's not concerned that supporters have raised more money at this point.

"We're just ramping up, in the growing stages of the campaign," he said. "People are on vacation right now and not paying much attention to it. Once voters have the opportunity to see how it will hurt farmers and raise food prices, we're confident they'll join us. The more they learn, the less they like it."

On the ballot

The official ballot text reads:

Initiative Measure No. 522 concerns labeling of genetically-engineered foods. This measure would require most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stocks, if produced using genetic engineering as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale.

Should this measure be enacted into law? Yes [ ] No [ ]

If voters approve the initiative, the law will go into effect July 1, 2015.