Organic Consumers Association

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GMO Labeling Battle in Washington State off to Familiar Start

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Washington News page.

Nobody is calling it "Little GMO" after California's "Big GMO" yet, but Initiative 522 in Washington State looks like it is on the same track as the Golden State's ill-fated Proposition 37. Except it has a shot at winning.

In 1990, when the two states ran similar environmental initiatives they became know as "Big Green" and "Little Green." They both lost. But after last year's stunning defeat in California, the national movement for labeling food and beverages containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) thinks it has a real shot in Washington State.

The latest campaign finance reports from the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission show some familiar players are showing up for the Evergreen State rematch and again being more than generous with their check-writing.

While the early momentum is probably on the side of the proponents, a fast-starting "No on 522" has already received almost $1 million from five big guns-the Grocery Manufacturers Association ($472,500), Monsanto (242,156.25), DuPont Pioneer ($171,281.25), Bayer Cropscience ($29,531.25), and Dow Agroscience LLC ($29,531.25).

But in Washington State, the "No on 522" committee's early spending has also garnered attention. It has spent about $110,000 bringing Santa Monica-based Winner & Mandabach Campaigns into the contest. Brad Shannon, political writer for the Daily Olympian newspaper in Washington's capital city, says Winner & Mandabach has a "track record of winning high stakes campaigns."

According to Shannon, the California media powerhouse has three recent wins in Washington State-for charter schools, against a soda tax, and for privatization of state liquor stores.

Still, I-522 proponents have the larger campaign going at the moment. The "Yes on 522" committee has raised over $2.1 million and spent just over $326,000. The group's big donors are also familiar to anyone who followed the Prop 37 campaign.

Escondido, CA-based Dr. Bonner's Magic Soaps is already in for $700,000. Hoffman Estates, IL-based Health Resources has contributed $200,000 to the "Yes" campaign. The Organic Consumer Fund has made two contributions totaling $380,000.

Barrington, IL-based Presence Marketing's two checks total $200,000. And the Center for Food Safety Action Fund and Nature's Path Foods USA Inc., based in Blaine, WA, each gave $100,000.

The "Label It Washington" campaign, which funded the paid signature drive to qualify I-522 as an initiative to the Legislature, also got $50,000 from Dr. Bonner's.

Just as Prop 37 did in California, most observers believe I-522 is starting out with a solid early lead. In California, the opposition outspent proponents, who also had an early lead,  by better than a 4-to-1 margin - using a $46 million air and grassroots campaign to scratch out a narrow win.   
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