SEATTLE – With a week to go before the November election, the Grocery Manufacturers Association is turning up the heat in the fight over labeling genetically engineered foods, spending heavily in recent days to defeat Initiative 522.
The Washington, D.C.-based food industry group on Thursday and Friday made two cash donations totaling about $3.7 million to the No on 522 campaign, according to reports filed with the state Public Disclosure Commission. The group, which has collected money from major food companies, has given a total of $11 million to defeat I-522.
Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has accused the group of improperly collecting the cash in a manner that shielded the identities of the companies to protect them from scrutiny. Last Tuesday, Ferguson said he’ll seek penalties against the group.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association has since set up a political committee and identified companies that contributed, including PepsiCo Inc., Coca-Cola Co., Nestle SA, General Mills Inc., Kellogg Co., The Hershey Co. and ConAgra Foods Inc. All those companies gave money to fight a similar food labeling measure last year in California, which voters narrowly defeated.
A message left with the group Saturday was not immediately returned.
The debate over food labeling is one of the costliest initiative fights ever in Washington. The money raised so far by both sides, about $27.7 million, is the second-highest amount for a state ballot measure.