U.S. food group faces legal trouble in fight over GMO labeling

Thu Oct 31, 2013 5:07am EDT

1 of 2. Labels point out products verified to not contain genetically modified organisms (GMO) at the Central Co-op in Seattle, Washington October 29, 2013. Major U.S. food and chemical companies are pouring millions of dollars into efforts to block approval of a ballot initiative in Washington state on November 5 that would make it the first in the United States to require labeling of foods containing genetically modified crops.

Credit: Reuters/Jason Redmond

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(Reuters) - A lobbying group for major U.S. food manufacturers continues to run afoul of campaign finance laws in the way that it has contributed funds to block a measure that would require labeling of genetically modified foods in Washington state, according to a statement issued Wednesday by the state's attorney general.

State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said he will amend a lawsuit filed October 16 to raise the total amount he alleges the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) illegally concealed to $11 million, from the $7.2 million in the original complaint.

GMA represents some of the world's largest food and beverage companies and is lobbying heavily against the measure known as I-522 that is set for a public vote in Washington state on November 5. GMA is the largest contributor to the "No on 522" campaign.

The I-522 requires labeling of foods that are made with genetically altered crops as well as labeling of genetically engineered seeds and seed products sold in the state.

This measure would be the first of its kind in the United States and both the food industry and biotech seed companies, including Monsanto and DuPont, have poured roughly $22 million into a campaign to defeat it.

The attorney general earlier alleged that the GMA illegally collected and spent more than $7 million while shielding the identity of its contributors. After the suit was filed, the GMA registered its political committee on October 18 and produced information about a portion of its member contributions.

But the attorney general said Wednesday that $3.8 million in contributions appear to have been collected by the GMA from its members before it registered a political action committee, and the contributions were not reported when it submitted its disclosure documents on October 18.

"These contributions increase the total amount the GMA received and expended on electoral activity in Washington without timely registering as political committee and reporting the full amount of contributions collected," the attorney general's office said in a statement.

GMA officials said in a statement that it has provided "full transparency" to voters in regard to contributions made.

"Every single GMA contribution to the campaign and the original source of those funds (including detailed lists of companies and dollar amounts) has been reported to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission," the group said.

The Yes on 522 campaign, which is pushing for labeling of GMO foods, repeated allegations that the food and biotech seed industry is trying to unfairly "buy" the election.

"It is clear that the GMA ... broke the law. Not once but multiple times now," said Delana Jones, campaign manager for Yes on 522.

As of Tuesday, proponents of labeling had raised roughly $6.8 million, compared to about $22 million raised by opponents, according to the Washington Public Disclosure Commission.

(Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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Comments (1)
ThatsAllShe wrote:
All products purchased by any consumer in the U.S., or anywhere for that matter, should have contained and detailed, within the products labeling, every ingredient contained therein even to the smallest and most minute detail.

To all of you Washington voters please consider. Is the above sentence reasonable? Do those who oppose detailed labeling consider it unreasonable for those who buy their products to know what’s in them?

This whole farce, projected by the huge corporations that are opposed to detailed labeling, stating that it will substantially increase costs to consumers, do they really consider it a costly thing to type a few extra words or sentences into the computer that produces all the labels for their products? Do they believe that the average consumer is ignorant to this fact? Really, how expensive could it be?

Do they not know what’s in their products? Really, all they have to do is type in all of the ingredients of their products into the computer that makes the labels and press go. It’s as simple as that.

Or is it more than that?

A reasonable mind should wonder, “Why are these big companies so opposed to this”?

Why have these big companies spent so many millions of dollars opposing this?

Perhaps they ARE trying to hide something.

Maybe they really DO consider their genetically modified ingredients to be inferior to what is natural.

Have they not already spent more money in opposing this then what it would cost just to implement it?

These big corporations make claims that new labeling laws will drive up costs to the consumer big time.

So my question is, “is that because the big companies fear that consumers will read about all the adulterated crap that is the genetically modified products”, and it will scare them, and make many thank, no way do I want to eat this tainted stuff or feed it to my kids?

Ask yourselves, if you were the boss of these big companies or corporations, would the above be a reasonable question that you would be asking yourself?

VOTE ACCORDINGLY.

Oct 31, 2013 7:59am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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