American “democracy” in action: 60 corporations contribute $22m to stop WA GMO labeling bill


November 2, 2013-MapLight, a nonpartisan research organization that tracks money’s influence on politics, has updated the campaign finance data on the ballot intiatives in Washington state to make labeling of foods containing GMOs mandatory.

A MapLight analysis of campaign finance data from the Washington Public Disclosure Commission as of October 30, 2013 shows the Top 10 contributors on the supporting and opposing side and the geographic origin of the contributions.

From MapLight’s Voter’s Edge in Washington State

I-522: GMO Labeling
(Requires labeling of food products made from genetically modified organisms).

Contributions from Supporting Interests

Total Raised: $7.7 million from 10,500 donors

9 WASHPIRG $168,121
10 WEILAND WILLIAM T. $150,000

Contributions from Opposing Interests

Total Raised: $22.0 million from 60 donors

1 MONSANTO $5,374,484
2 DUPONT PIONEER $3,880,159
3 PEPSICO $2,352,966
4 NESTLE USA $1,528,206
7 CONAGRA FOODS $828,251

Background: The initiative, I-522, is a sibling to California’s 2012 Proposition 37 (GMO Labeling): many of the major contributors in this race also contributed to committees for or against Proposition 37, and the recent spike in opposition dollars echoes last year when the opposition to Proposition 37, according to the LA Times, “bankrolled” a “media blitz” in the final stretch.

Election in county, state could bring significant changes

In races in the county and state, the outcomes could reshape government and raise larger issues.

Source: The Herald

Tuesday’s election features a series of races that could reshape politics locally.

And some races around the state that could have national implications.

In Snohomish County, three of the five seats on the County Council are in contention — and at least two new faces will join the council

Councilmen John Koster and Dave Gossett are being forced to give up their seats because of term limits.

Ken Klein, a Republican who is an Arlington city councilman, and Bill Blake, a Democrat who is an Arlington utilities supervisor, are competing for Koster’s seat representing District 1, which covers most of north Snohomish County.

In south Snohomish County, Republican Bob Reedy faces Democrat Terry Ryan for Gossett’s seat in District 4. Ryan is a former Mill Creek mayor and city councilman who works commercial real estate with Seattle firm Kidder Mathews. Reedy is a lifelong resident of south county who worked in customer service for Mill Creek-based Jaco Environmental, but said he recently took a job in marketing. The district includes Mill Creek, Mountlake Terrace, Brier and north Bothell, as well as unincorporated areas such as Alderwood Manor and Silver Firs.

In District 5, in southeast Snohomish County, incumbent Dave Somers is running against Chris Vallo of Lake Stevens, a real estate broker seeking his first term in public office. Vallo ran for county assessor and lost in 2011.

The district covers eastern Snohomish County, including Snohomish, Monroe, Maltby, Sultan, Gold Bar and Index.

Dozens of other candidates are running in races in cities around the county. In Lynnwood, Mayor Don Gough is being challenged by Nicola Smith, a dean at Edmonds Community College.

In Mukilteo, Mayor Joe Marine is going against City Councilwoman Jennifer Gregerson.

Stanwood and Monroe will both have new mayors. Stanwood Mayor Dianne White is stepping aside. Les Anderson, who served on Stanwood’s council from 1993 to 2001, and current Councilman Leonard Kelley hope to step into her job. Anderson is employed by Mill Creek’s public works department. Kelley is retired.

In Monroe, Mayor Robert Zimmerman also decided against seeking re-election. Ed Davis, who has served on the City Council for two years, and Geoffrey Thomas, a former city council member who served six years in 2009, are seeking Zimmerman’s job.

Davis works as a surface security inspector for the federal Transportation Security Administration. Thomas works as senior legislative analyst for the Snohomish County Council.

As of Friday afternoon, 65,740 ballots had been returned or about 15.7 percent of the 419,275 ballots mailed to voters countywide.

Around the state, in SeaTac, a campaign backed by labor unions seeks to raise the minimum wage to $15 for many workers. In Whatcom County, an unprecedented amount of outside money is influencing an election that may shape whether the area becomes home to the largest coal shipping terminal on the West Coast.

Statewide, voters will decide whether to label genetically modified foods in a campaign that has drawn hefty donations from food industry businesses.

Todd Donovan, a professor of political science at Western Washington University, said the unique thing about this year’s ballot, which voters must postmark by Tuesday, is that a random assortment of campaigns has drawn so much attention from outside the state as organizations seek to use this year’s vote as leverage.

“Both sides are looking at what happens in Washington. It’s going to make it harder or easier to advance their policy goals,” Donovan said.

In Seattle, incumbent Mike McGinn and opponent Ed Murray, a state senator, have waded into national discussions about the minimum wage, coal and gun control. Meanwhile, a state Senate race that could shape the balance of power in the chamber has become the most expensive legislative contest in state history.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman is forecasting a fairly average off-year voter turnout of 51 percent, well below the 81 percent last year when the presidential race and major issues like gay marriage and marijuana legalization were on the ballot.

Donovan said the issues this year have created an interesting dynamic. In Whatcom County, for example, voters in the county council race are weighing whether the proposed increase in coal trains through the region will add jobs, affect traffic and have any local environmental impacts.

But the coal industry and environmental groups that are funding the campaigns see something much bigger, Donovan said. To them, it’s a battle over issues such as climate change and business.

“They’re thinking globally, but here it’s much more about how it affects people locally,” Donovan said.

Meanwhile, labor groups have been pushing nationally this year for a $15 minimum wage, and the SeaTac initiative could provide those proponents a success story they can use as a foundation. The initiative to label genetically modified foods has become a $30 million campaign, with most of the money coming from food industry groups in opposition of the measure.

More money pours into Wash. food labeling fight

October 29, 2013 

By PHUONG LE — Associated Press

SEATTLE — A group fighting food labeling in Washington state has busted the record for the most money raised by an initiative campaign in state history.

Largely financed by five biotechnology giants and a food industry group, the No on 522 committee has raised nearly $22 million to defeat Initiative 522, which would require foods containing genetically engineered ingredients to carry a label, the latest campaign finance records show.

Initiative supporters have raised about $6.8 million, mostly from natural food companies and others.

Opponents of food-labeling have received an infusion of last-minute contributions with just days to go until the November election. Monsanto Co. gave $540,000 on Monday to No on 522, bringing the company’s total contributions to nearly $5.4 million. Monsanto is the second highest contributor fighting the measure.

A political committee formed by the Washington, D.C.-based Grocery Manufacturers Association is the top contributor to No on 522, giving $11 million total. About a third of that amount has come in the last several days.

The food group has collected money from the nation’s top food and beverage companies such as PepsiCo Inc., Coca-Cola Co., Nestle SA, General Mills Inc., Kellogg Co., The Hershey Co. and ConAgra Foods Inc.

On Nov. 5, Washington voters will decide whether to approve I-522, which requires genetically engineered foods offered for retail sale to be labeled. Products would have to carry a label on the front of the package disclosing that they contain genetically engineered ingredients.

Supporters say consumers have a right to know whether foods they buy contain such ingredients and a GMO label is no different from nutrition and other labels. Opponents say it would cost farmers and food processors and such a label implies the food is somehow less safe.

Moriah Armstrong, 67, who lives on Orcas Island, has already cast her mail-in ballot in support of the initiative. She said she has been alarmed by the amount of money that initiative opponents appear to have spent on numerous television ads, campaign fliers and phone calls.

“Time and time again corporations are using their money to influence the voters. I’d like to see the little man beat out the corporations’ big spending,” said Armstrong, a retiree who gave $50 to labeling supporters.

Armstrong said she voted for the measure because she believes in transparency and that the public has the right to know what’s in their food.

Doreen Wardenaar, whose family runs a farm in the eastern Washington town of Othello, opposes the measure.

“We feel strongly that it will add another layer to our bureaucracy that isn’t needed and Washington should fall in line with federal standards,” said Wardenaar, whose family grows potatoes, onions and fresh packaged sweet corn. “That would be an unfair playing field for Washington farmers.”

Wardenaar, whose husband gave $50 to No on 522, said the influx of money from the big corporations doesn’t help the cause. Still, she said: “I’m no attorney, but it just sounds like a mess to me.”

She said she looked at the initiative and decided it would be expensive and would put Washington farmers at a disadvantage. The farm grows crops that aren’t genetically modified, but they’re concerned it would cost them money to prove that, she said.

TV ads against food-labeling initiative to launch this week

The campaign against the food-labeling initiative received millions this month from Monsanto and DuPont.

By Jerry Cornfield, The Herald

Opponents of a food labeling initiative are gearing up to air their first television commercials in an ad campaign expected to cost millions of dollars and run up to Election Day in November.

A copy of a contract filed with the Federal Communication Commission shows the No on Initiative 522 campaign has booked $72,000 worth of advertising this week on KOMO-TV in Seattle. A 30-second spot would air beginning with the early-morning newscast Monday, according to the contract.

Additional contracts reserve time every day on the station through the last day of voting, Nov. 5.

A representative of the campaign declined to confirm the schedule, which could be amended after the filing of the contracts.

“I am not going to give out our playbook,” said campaign spokeswoman Dana Bieber.

Supporters of the measure are anticipating the launch of television ads now that the opposition has received millions of dollars from Monsanto and DuPont, two corporations that worked to defeat a similar labeling measure in California in 2012.

“This goes to show these corporations are really more focused on protecting their bottom line than giving grocery shoppers in Washington state more information about their food,” said Elizabeth Larter, spokeswoman for the Yes on 522 campaign.

If passed, Initiative 522 would require many food products made with genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such. This would apply primarily to processed and packaged foods sold in supermarkets and other retail outlets.

What this means, for example, is a product made with corn, canola or soybeans grown from scientifically created seed stock would need a label to inform the buyer of the modified ingredients. Snack foods such as chips and soft drinks that contain artificial ingredients would need labels starting in July 2015.

Supporters argue the measure is about giving shoppers more information about what’s in the food they consume. Labels would not be required on food sold in restaurants nor on dairy and meat products, even if the cattle are fed genetically engineered foods.

Opponents counter that I-522 would create new and costly burdens on farmers and businesses and would increase food costs. They also say the state will need to spend money to enforce the labeling law.

As of Friday, the No on 522 Committee had raised nearly $12 million in donations and pledges, according to reports filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission. After expenditures, the committee had a little over $10 million available.

“We plan to use our resources to share with voters how misleading 522 is and how it is going to increase grocery costs by hundreds and hundreds of dollars a year,” Bieber said.

The majority of the opposition money arrived this month from the two companies, which are among the nation’s biggest producers of genetically modified seed products.

Monsanto wrote a $4.6 million check on Sept. 5, pushing its total donations to the campaign to roughly $4.85 million. On Sept. 10, DuPont gave $3.2 million and is now up to nearly $3.4 million in contributions.

The level of spending should come as no surprise. Last year, the two firms topped all contributors to the effort to defeat Proposition 37 in California.

In that campaign, Monsanto gave $8.1 million and DuPont $5.4 million, according to state campaign finance reports compiled by

In Washington, as of Friday, the Yes on 522 committee had collected $3.5 million in donations and, after expenditures, had about $2.6 million available in cash. The single largest donor is Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, which has given roughly $1 million.

Reports filed with the FCC show the committee reserved time starting in mid-October on KOMO.

A statewide poll released last week shows the measure enjoys strong backing among potential voters. Of the 406 registered voters surveyed in the Elway Poll, 66 percent expressed support, with only 21 percent opposed. The survey has a margin of error of 5 percent.

Larter predicted the numbers will change once ads begin airing.

“This will be a competitive race,” she said.


Monsanto Funds Anti-GE Labeling Efforts in Washington

Source: E-News, Park Forest

Washington, DC–(ENEWSPF)–September 12, 2013.  Monsanto recently made a multi-million dollar contribution to an organization fighting to stop a ballot initiative in Washington State that would force food processors to label genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. Monsanto has poured millions of dollars into multiple anti-labeling efforts, previously contributing over $7 million against a similar proposition in California last year. In spite of being out fundraised, support for labeling GE ingredients remains strong in Washington State, and consumers across the country are becoming increasingly aware of the problems associated with GE crops.

Washington State’s Initiative 522 (I-522), which will be voted on this coming November, will require manufactured raw agricultural products that are genetically engineered, and processed foods with GE ingredients to be labeled by July 1, 2015. However, in the past week Monsanto contributed nearly $4.6 million to the ‘No on 522′ campaign. With this recent contribution by Monsanto, the No on 522 campaign, which opposes GE labeling, has raised close to $7.9 million, $3.5 million more than the Yes on 522 campaign. This influx of corporate money was predicted by Beyond Pesticides last month. In Washington state, individual and corporate contributions to campaigns for elected office cannot exceed $800-$1800 depending on the office. However, there are no restrictions to donations for ballot initiatives in the U.S., as they are protected as free speech.

Despite being outspent, polls in Washington show strong support for I-522 with 66% in support to only 22% opposed. The poll also dug further into how voters would react towards negative ad campaigns. The poll stated, “Support for labeling withstands a barrage of opposition attacks. After voters hear one message in favor of labeling and six messages against it, support for I-522 holds at 64%, while opposition only increases to 29%.” Though this poll is good news for supporters of I-522, the campaign still will face strong opposition by the heavily corporate funded No on 522 campaign.

This past November, Prop 37 in California, a similar ballot initiative to I-522 that would have required GE ingredients to be labeled, was narrowly defeated by a margin of 6.2%. Support for Prop 37 during the summer before the election was at 2-1; however, as the election grew closer the supporters of Prop 37 were outspent by over $30 million, and support for the measure weakened. The corporate money that was raised in opposition was used to promote misinformation and negative attack ads.

Despite the defeat of Prop 37, GE labeling activists started other legislative campaigns in states other than Washington and have won several high profile victories. In Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed House Bill 6527- An Act Concerning Genetically-Engineered Food. This bill will require GE ingredients to be labeled when similar legislation is passed by other states in the New England region with an aggregate population of 20 million. The Maine legislature also passed a similar law. Whole Foods Market announced in March that it would label GE ingredients sold in its stores, making it the first national chain to do so. Several other state legislatures have also introduced bills that would require GE ingredients to be labeled. In Minnesota H.F. 850 and S.F. 821 were introduced in February of 2013 and are still being considered by the legislature.  In Vermont the House of Representatives passed H.112, a GE labeling law, on May 10. The bill is expected to be taken up by the state Senate in January when the legislature reconvenes.

Activism around GE labeling will continue to grow around the country, as a recent New York Times poll shows national support for GE labeling reaching 93%, a number consistent with past polls showing broad support that cuts across race, gender, socio-economic class and party affiliation. On the Federal level Senator Barbra Boxer (D-CA) and Representative Peter Defazio (D-OR) introduced companion legislation that would require the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to “clearly label” all GE ingredients. The bills, the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, H.R. 1699 and S. 809, have 22 cosponsors in the House and 10 in the Senate.

GE labeling campaigns have drawn strong public support because consumers understand that they have a right-to-know the ingredients that are in their food. Though large companies have had short term success pouring money into state level campaigns, over time this strategy may help feed public opinion that these companies have something to hide. GE labeling campaigns come at a crucial time, as new varieties of GE crops are being introduced and evidence that GE foods are harmful to the environment continues to grow.

In Washington state, new GE crops such as Aquabounty’s GE Salmon, which are designed to reach maturity faster than their wild counterparts, and GE apples that won’t brown could have dramatic impacts on the state’s agricultural economy. On a national level, the St. Louis Pots-Dispatch reported in 2012 on progress that multinational chemical corporations Dow AgroSciences, BASF, and Monsanto are making to bring multi-herbicide resistant varieties to market. Under separate arrangements with each company, Monsanto adds glyphosate resistance to seeds that are simultaneously engineered to resist other herbicides. In October 2012, Dow AgroSciences obtained a global patent on its Enlist Duo technology, which packages an herbicide containing 2, 4-D and glyphosate with seeds engineered to tolerate both materials. Monsanto has also been partnering with BASF on dicamba and glyphosate tolerant crop varieties since 2009 with a focus on soybeans, cotton, and corn.

The explosion of GE crops on the market  has led to growing pest and weed resistance, which has resulted in increased pesticide use. Increased pesticide use threatens wildlife, particularly sensitive species. A 2012 study found the herbicide Roundup, which is sprayed on thousands of acres of Roundup Ready corn and soybeans, to induce morphological changes in three species of frogs. GE crop-induced herbicide applications are also indirectly affecting the health of beneficial species. Widespread applications of Roundup destroy sanctuary land and the plant species that support beneficial insects and other wildlife.

The best way to avoid genetically engineered foods in the marketplace is to purchase foods that have the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified organic seal. Under organic certification standards, genetically modified organisms and their byproducts are prohibited. To learn more about organic agriculture, visit Beyond Pesticides’ Organic Agriculture, and Eating With a Conscious pages.

To support Washington State’s labeling efforts, get involved with the Yes on I-522 campaign. National GE labeling efforts are being spearheaded by the Just Label It! campaign.  For more information on GE foods and labeling issues, see Beyond Pesticides’ Genetic Engineering website.

All unattributed positions and opinions in this piece are those of Beyond Pesticides.

Sources: KUOW,

Agribusiness: More millions to fight I-522

By Joe Connlley, Seattle PI

Major agribusiness companies and grocery chains appear set on a “Shock and Awe” approach to defeating Initiative 522 on Washington’s November ballot, and have poured nearly $9 million into the cause over the last two days.

The latest big bucks include $3.2 million from Dupont, on top of $171,281 previously given; a $562,000 pledge from Dow Agrisciences and a $500,000 pledge from BASF Plant Science.  Montsanto made the biggest investment earlier in the week with a $4.5 million contribution to the No-on-522 campaign.

I-522 would put labeling requirements on genetically manufactured foods and seeds offered for sale in Washington State.  A similar ballot measure in California set off a massive advertising blitz:  Major grocery chains and agribusiness interests spent $46 million and narrowly defeated it.

Supporters of the initiative have put together a $3.5 million war chest.  About $19 million was spent on behalf of the California measure.

Shelby Scates: A memorable election night argument.
Shelby Scates: A memorable election night argument.

The No-on-522 campaign has retained services of Beverly Hills, Calif.-based Winner & Mandabach, the nation’s most experienced consulting firm at promoting and fighting initiatives.  Winner & Mandabach worked in 2012 for opponents of the California labeling measure.

Winner & Mandabach was formerly Winner Wagner & Mandabach, and gained initial fame (or infamy if you were on the opposite side) in the 1980′s for successful strategies that defeated anti-nuclear power initiatives in Western states.

Its first setback came in Washington with the so-called “WPPSS initiative.”  I-394, put on the ballot in 1981, was aimed at curbing soaring costs of the Washington Public Power Supply System’s nuclear program, which eventually left four abandoned, partially built reactors and caused the biggest municipal bond default in American history.

I-394 required utilities to get voter approval before issuing new bonds to pay for WPPSS’ nuclear plants, whose total costs had reached $23.9 billion.

Major brokerage firms and nuclear contractors spent $1.2 million to beat it, compared to just $200,000 for supporters.  But backers aired radio ads produced by famous New York adman Tony Schwartz, creator of the famous “Daisy” ad that implied that Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater might set off a nuclear war.

I-394 rolled up 58 percent of the vote,  although courts later threw it out.  Election night featured a memorable, not-entirely-friendly encounter at “No” headquarters between firm principal Chuck Winner and Seattle Post-Intelligencer columnist Shelby Scates.

The cost to corporations of ballot campaigns has since gone up.  The American Beverage Assn., in 2010, spent $16.9 million to persuade Washington voters to roll back a modest soda pop tax, enacted by the Legislature to fund education. Costco topped that with its successful campaign to end the state’s monopoly on retail liquor sales.

With its latest influx of cash — and nearly two months until election day — the No-on-522 campaign may challenge previous spending records.

What’s a GMO? And Should Washington Food Labels Warn Us About Them?


BY RACHEL BELLE  on July 31, 2013

Good day, class. Today we’re going to learn about GMOs. Those three little letters have been in the news a lot lately, and most people don’t really know what it means. For example, today in our show prep meeting, I told the guys I was doing a story on GMOs and Ron said:

“What’s the ‘O’ stand for? Genetically Modified…O?”

Organism. Genetically Modified Oganism. It’s also called GE, Genetically Engineered.

This November, Washingtonians will vote on I-522 to decide if foods and seeds containing GMOs should be labeled at grocery and home and garden stores.

Trudy Bialic is director of public affairs for PCC Natural Markets. She wants the labeling. “Essentially all GMOs are either tolerating a pesticide or producing their own pesticide and insecticide. It’s engineered with properties that make the produce its own insecticide. You are eating a registered pesticide.”

GMOs can currently be found in some zucchini and yellow squash and sweet corn, which means they often show up in processed foods that contain corn syrup. But Trudy isn’t taking a stand on whether GMOs are good or bad. She simply wants the products labeled.

“I-522 is really about labeling,” says Trudy. “It’s not about the science. Labeling gives us transparency and it gives us, as shoppers, the ability to decide for ourselves what’s appropriate and best for us to buy and feed our families.”

But not everyone wants the labels. Dana Beiber is the spokesperson for the No on 522 campaign.

“We already have a labeling system that works perfectly,” Dana says. “For folks who want to avoid foods with GE ingredients in them, they can do so by looking for the organic label. So it’s not necessary. The other reason it’s not necessary to put a warning label on these foods is because we’ve been eating them for decades and we have overwhelming scientific research that tells us that the foods are safe.

She says farmers will either have to spend money on a new label, that’s specific to Washington state, or change the ingredients in their product.

“I think it’s consumers who are really gonna end up paying the bill for us,” Dana says. “We can expect our grocery bills to go up by hundreds of dollars per year to pay for this unnecessary labeling system.”

Trudy says 64 countries and a few other states have already passed GMO labeling laws.

“Two-thirds of Washingtonians support labeling of genetically engineered foods. There are only five corporations that are funding the opposition. Five! They’re protecting their profits. Their concern is not the right to know for all Washingtonians. We all should know what’s in our food.”

We already label products with their fat and sodium content, we list all the ingredients, so what’s the harm in alerting consumers to GMOs?

“The fat or the sodium or whether it has eggs or peanuts in it, all that’s placed on every label throughout the country. It’s also on the back of the product. It’s not a warning label on the front of the product. Make no mistake, 522 is a warning label. In fact, the proponents have said they want it to be a skull and crossbones label on the front of a package.”

The spokesperson from Yes on I-522 says they have no intention of using a skull and crossbones, just a simple couple of words.

Class dismissed.