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Big Food Accused of 'Elaborate Scheme' to Kill GMO Labeling Effort

State of Washington waging $14 million lawsuit

The nation’s largest food companies are under criticism for using too much sugar, too few healthy ingredients and failing to be transparent about what’s in their products. At least some of those concerns now seem to be playing out in a fight over how America’s largest food industry group financed a campaign against a food labeling initiative.

The state of Washington’s attorney general is seeking $14 million from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), alleging the GMA created an “elaborate scheme” to secretly fund a multimillion dollar campaign to kill a food labeling initiative.

Since 2013, Washington’s attorney general Bob Ferguson has alleged that the GMA illegally tried to hide the names of its donors to a campaign to kill state Initiative 522, which would have required food labels for genetically modified ingredients. It was narrowly defeated. The GMA says it broke no laws. “Washington law treats trade associations contributing their own funds as single entities for disclosure purposes,” it says.

Late last week, documents were unsealed from the ongoing litigation, which reveal the planning behind, and the contributors to, the Grocery Manufacturers Association’s (GMA) “No on 522” campaign. Under intense pressure, the GMA did reveal the donors and contribution amounts just weeks before the 2013 vote, but the move — which got little publicity at the time — did not satisfy attorney general Bob Ferguson.

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