Business Strategies

Top Donors to Anti-GMO Labeling Campaign Disclosed

By Kevin T. Higgins

Feb 23, 2016

Documents detailing the leading food company contributors to the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s “No on 522” campaign against labeling genetically modified foods were unsealed last week in Thurston County Superior Court in the state of Washington.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed suit against GMA in 2013, alleging the trade group violated state campaign finance disclosure laws when it created a “Defense of Brands Strategic Account” to hide the identities of contributors to the campaign to defeat the labeling referendum. According to the attorney general’s office, GMA chipped in $11 million to the “No on 522” campaign.

In a Jan. 22 motion seeking summary judgment, the state notes that 34 food companies donated to the anti-GMO labeling campaign. The referendum was defeated in November 2013, with 51 percent of voters opposing GMO labeling.

In his motion seeking judgment without a need for a trial, Ferguson noted that opponents of a similar GMO-labeling ballot initiative in California in 2012 contributed $43 million. Many of those corporate contributors faced public criticism. To avoid a similar scenario in Washington, GMA created the special campaign finance fund to hide the contributors’ identities, according to Ferguson. His suit seeks $14 million from GMA.

At a hearing Friday to consider the motion for summary judgment, Superior Court judge Anne Hirsch indicated a written opinion on the motion would be issued at an unspecified time.