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Just Look Behind the Curtain

The Donor Lists for the GMO Initiative Say Everything

Just Look Behind the Curtain

In one corner, you've got people—lots of people.

The campaign to pass I-522, the initiative that would mandate labeling most genetically modified (or GMO) food, can point to its parades of supporters. More than 350,000 voters signed their petition, making it the second most popular initiative in Washington State history after pot legalization. Their donor list on the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission's website is a stunning 471 separate pages long. And then there's more: Elizabeth Larter, a 522 spokeswoman, explains that because campaigns aren't required to report contributions under $25, they've actually received more than 13,000 donations. It's a model of widespread, grassroots organization to make big businesses disclose what's in their products.

Then there is the other corner.

The No on 522 campaign has a decidedly different kind of backing. For all their TV ads full of amber waves of grain and local farmers, their entire donor list can be counted on your fingers. The top five are the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA)—a conglomerate of food manufacturers—Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Bayer CropScience, and Dow AgroSciences.

"These are the same people who gave us DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange, and napalm," says PCC Natural Markets spokeswoman Trudy Bialic.

She's not exaggerating for effect—those dangerous chemicals were all manufactured and sold by Monsanto or Dow Chemical. The total raised by the corporate food and chemical giants? Just over $17 million, the most money ever spent opposing an initiative in this state.

As for actual people, there are only four individual human beings on the no side's entire donor list. They gave, altogether, just $500.

Making matters worse, the GMA is an umbrella group that gave $7.2 million, but for a while it wasn't clear who the donors behind the curtain were. Washington State attorney general Bob Ferguson brought a lawsuit last week accusing the GMA of soliciting funds from their members specifically to block I-522 and then not reporting it. If true, that would break another state record—for the largest campaign finance violation of its kind. The GMA has since disclosed their donors, which include more than $1 million each from Pepsi, Coke, and Nestlé; half a million from General Mills; and about a quarter million each from Hershey, Campbell Soup, and ConAgra.

That kind of money will buy you a lot of eyes and ears. After a month of saturating the airwaves—and the computer screens and mobile devices—of Washington State residents, what had been about a 40-point lead for the yes side in an early Elway poll has dwindled into a statistical tie, according to another Elway poll released this week. That poll pegs it at 46–42 in favor, with 12 percent undecided and a 5 percent margin of error.

"We didn't pick this fight," says No on 522 spokeswoman Dana Bieber. She calls the initiative "inconsistent, incomplete, and inaccurate" and "an attack on our family farmers." She says big pesticide manufacturers support their campaign because they're just "supporting their customers," i.e., farmers.

(I'm not going into the politics, arguments, and science around GMO labeling here—we've written about it at length before. I'm just going to stick with the dough and the donors.)

While Bieber says "tens of thousands of farmers" are behind the No on 522 campaign, Larter says plenty of farmers support a yes vote, too, then goes a step further: "Our farmers have actually, as individuals, chosen to donate to 522," she notes, citing campaign contributors as well as a separate Political Action Committee called Farmers and Friends of Initiative 522. That PAC, she notes with a smile, is "fully transparent and [is] following the letter of the law."

And while Bieber says, "There's big out-of-state money on both sides," Yes on 522 boasts just a single million-dollar-plus donor: hippie soap company Dr. Bronner's, from California. recommended

 

Comments (22) RSS

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1
Thanks for letting me know who doesn't want me to know their food products may change my DNA. If people wnt another reason to V
ot e YES on I-522 go to http://www.reuters.com/assets/print?aid=…
Cascadian Beek
Posted by Cascadian Beek on October 23, 2013 at 2:22 PM · Report this
2
Any representative receiving gifts from corporations,
no LONGER QUALIFIES to be a Senator/Congress person and
loses their seat, without benefits/retirement,
minus each year of corporate "buy-outs"..

All representatives must be evaluated on facts,
as educators experience, every four years. When failed,
position is replaced with alternate.

Endorse and share: http://wh.gov/DOs9

Posted by Here4Truth on October 23, 2013 at 4:49 PM · Report this
3
What was the most highly-financed campaign in Washington state history? I'm looking and showing Costco's liquor privatization was only $20 million, but I don't think that is combined.
Posted by Wikipedian on October 24, 2013 at 7:03 AM · Report this
4
It actually doesn't say much of anything, except that there are dumb people on both sides. The GMO labels won't provide "more information" any more than the signs all over California that say "this building contains chemicals known to cause cancer".

How much does it contain? Which parts? Should you avoid the area altogether? Hold your breath, or just not touch anything?

Sometimes vague information is worse than no information at all.
Posted by Saul Of-Hearts on October 24, 2013 at 12:58 PM · Report this
Will in Seattle 5
Rich corporations hate for the Serfs to have choices
Posted by Will in Seattle http://www.facebook.com/WillSeattle on October 24, 2013 at 1:48 PM · Report this
6
The most expensive initiative in WA state history was the Yes on 1183 - the Costco liquor initiative with $20,115,326 spent. And look how low liquor prices are! Proof on how trustworthy big corporations can be.

Saul Of-Hearts, I can't agree that "Sometimes vague information is worse than no information at all". While the NO 522 campaign pitches the idea that the initiative is flawed and confusing it's actually written pretty clearly, and with an eye towards not stepping on anything covered in federal law that might overturn it. But since as many people will read this initiative as read the POS i-1183 it doesn't matter.

What's clear is that the bio-chem backers of NO 522 have been blocking and refusing to release information on the impacts of their products for decades. The USDA and FDA refuse to ask for it, because if they had the research in their hands they would have to intervene. And the public and consumer groups are shut down by claims of trade secrets and proprietary information.

These corporations are like the tobacco companies of decades ago. Hiding research that proves negative health impact caused by their products until someone inside leaks it all out and the government is forced to step in and do what they should have been doing all along - acting in the public's best interests.

I don't know who's worse. The bio-chem companies that do things that knowingly make people ill (through exposing them to toxic agricultural chemicals, herbicides, in particular, where the applications on GMO plants is far higher that with conventional agriculture) or the government shills that run interference for them to keep information bottled up and to keep reforms or controls from being enacted. What I do know is that they are both some of the worse kinds of human filth.

More...
Posted by K Barnes on October 26, 2013 at 10:07 AM · Report this
7
If you're going to repost the same article Minard, you might want to actually double check the sources and see that No on 522 is up to $21.4 million, 5 itemized individuals in WA state (and 3 or more small contributions).

And, for what it's worth, California has put more into Yes on 522 than WA has.
Posted by ChefJoe on October 27, 2013 at 11:25 AM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 8
After this vote is over, those 10 Yes on 522 donors are going to be right there on your kitchen table every day, deciding what you eat. The 13,000 people in the No campaign aren't going to have any special role in your life after this. You might not trust the intentions or wisdom of those 13,000, but what's it to you? What matters is what those 10 donors are going to do next.

So do you want those 10 to have free reign going forward? Or give them one little boundary, one small hurdle, this food label?
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on October 27, 2013 at 11:50 AM · Report this
9
Lol. Cthulhu has changed his mind and wants everyone to embrace the wisdom of the crowd and vote No on 522. Welcome to our team.
Posted by ChefJoe on October 27, 2013 at 11:52 AM · Report this
sirkowski 10
their food products may change my DNA.

Care to explain how that works exactly? Reptilian technology?
Posted by sirkowski http://www.missdynamite.com on October 27, 2013 at 1:29 PM · Report this
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn 11
@9

Yeah, well my fuckups before I've had my first cup of coffee are better than your best shit on your best day.
Posted by Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn http://youtu.be/zu-akdyxpUc on October 27, 2013 at 1:49 PM · Report this
12
Apparently @1 is confusing retroviruses with GMO products and @11 rolls out of bed at 11:30 AM.
Posted by ChefJoe on October 27, 2013 at 1:56 PM · Report this
13
This makes me want to contribute $25 to No on 522 but I'm not going to because they have plenty of money (I hope). @1 clearly doesn't understand how genetically modified organisms/food works. If we label for genes introduced into a plant in some lab, then we ABSOLUTELY need to label for all the breeding that went into the plants we are eating as well. Name parental strains several generations back so we *might* know what has made it into the food that we are already eating. Provide genetic analyses on every package of food so we are aware of ... of what? Labeling food in this way is a bad idea and is just going to make food more expensive when the point of GMO is to make it cheaper. People in America are so stupid when it comes to science. Passing an initiative that regulates that increased profits coming from GMO plants get passed down to the consumer. That's the kind of legislation we need (not that it will work).
Posted by idaho on October 27, 2013 at 2:41 PM · Report this
14
@13, according to the PDC website voteNoon522 has Total Raised: $21,411,785.05 Total Spent: $13,530,110.33 but you can donate. However, if you're a smaller donor of $25 or less the author of this post doesn't think you're an "actual donor" and won't count you.
Posted by ChefJoe on October 27, 2013 at 4:43 PM · Report this
15
Monsanto just gave money to this YMCA science program:
http://www.monsantofund.org/about/newsro…

But I doubt that fact tells us anything about the quality of the program.
Posted by MikeB on October 27, 2013 at 7:50 PM · Report this
Greenwood 16
If someone doesn't want to eat GMO food for whatever reason (rational or irrational), they can purchase food that says "organic" or "no GMO." If there's no label, assume it contains GMO. What does this law accomplish then?
Posted by Greenwood on October 27, 2013 at 10:31 PM · Report this
raindrop 17
If this is a health issue, which it is, it should be handled at the federal level. What is the expectation? That each state would follow suit with its own initiative? That is so criminally inefficient to affect commerce with such randomization. Instead, work with the FDA, USDA, and our congressional representatives.
I myself, anecdotally, am fully invested with the importance of this issue, knowing that avoiding processed foods cleared up several things in my own health - it only stands to reason that this should too.
This is a health issue beyond states rights, it's a federal issue.
Posted by raindrop on October 27, 2013 at 10:41 PM · Report this
18
Just one question for all of the Yes on 522 crowd:

What is your solution to the looming overpopulation, environmental concerns, and global warming?

Complain all that you want about the scientifically and economically and healthfully proven solutions that have dominated improvements in crop science, but when you don't have any alternatives to a proven success story, your complaints are worthless.

Complain all you want about science, but when the primary goal of this Yes of 522 campaign is quite literally a smear campaign devoid of any facts (case in point, ""These are the same people who gave us DDT, PCBs, Agent Orange, and napalm," says PCC Natural Markets spokeswoman Trudy Bialic."). And complaining about the monopoly of 5 companies but don't seem to find any of the purchasers (true farmers) from these companies complaining with them just rings hollow.

So now what has the Yes of 522 crowd resorted to??? "Look at who is donating! The horror! They must be evil!" If Yes on 522 actually had a case or a point to their rhetoric, perhaps they should make it.

I'm Pro Science and educated! I like facts! So I'm No on 522.
Posted by Scientist working toward a Sustainable Future on October 28, 2013 at 9:37 AM · Report this
sirkowski 19
@13, 18 Fuckin' A!
Posted by sirkowski http://www.missdynamite.com on October 28, 2013 at 2:28 PM · Report this
20
So is it the median contribution or the average contribution?

Makes a difference.
Posted by Bob is White on October 28, 2013 at 3:17 PM · Report this
21
Its pretty simple to me. I want to know what is in my food. similar to MSG, nuts, wheat, and soy. Some people still claim that people are not effected by those ingredients; evidence and personal experience reveal otherwise.

Corporate interests and those friendly to them have opposed every truth in labeling initiative since the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906. If you don't recall that, then read Upton Sinclair's muckraking novel, the Jungle. There is a 21st century muckraking novel that will probably be written. The challenge will be short of a presidential commission (as in the Holmes commission under Teddy Roosevelt that led to the Pure Food And Drug Act) we're not likely to see any cooperation. Prior to that act becoming law,the Coca Cola company had cocaine in their cola product without a label indicating it so. We'd think that to be reprehensible today. 100 years from now we'll think the same of GMO labeling. That is why I did vote YES to support initiative I-522 along with other kitchen and health conscious voters. Peace!
Posted by gjo on October 29, 2013 at 10:56 PM · Report this
22
@15 not to be rude, but what is your point?
Posted by tito on October 30, 2013 at 9:31 PM · Report this

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