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Not All California Players Join I-522 Battle

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

 Even as opponents of Initiative 522 break fundraising records, a few large U.S. companies that spent money last year to fight mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods in California have been sitting out this year's fight in Washington.

Their absence hasn't crimped the No on 522 committee's ability to fund a barrage of television ads that criticize the initiative, saying it is costly for consumers, is confusing and won't provide meaningful information.

Opponents of labeling have collected $22 million and reported spending more than $20 million, making their PAC the most prolific fundraiser in any Washington state initiative campaign.

Proponents have raised more than $7.8 million for Yes on 522. Other committees also have raised money in favor.

But prominent companies are stepping back from the fight against labeling - for reasons that appear to vary. Among them are Unilever, a global company that owns Ben & Jerry's ice cream line. Unilever gave $467,100 to anti-labeling forces in California last year.

Others that gave in California but not Washington are Kraft Foods and Mars Inc., as well as Dole Packaged Foods and Tree Top Inc. Kraft contributed more than $2 million to the campaign to defeat California's Proposition 37, while Mars gave $498,350.

Mars spokesmen recently said the candy-bar company is sitting out all GMO fights across the country.

"As states continue to debate this issue, Mars Inc. will neither oppose nor fund opposition of GMO labeling proposals at the state or federal levels, where those initiatives seek only to inform consumers of whether a product contains GMOs - this specifically includes (the) Washington state ballot measure," the company said in a statement last month issued in response to a reporter's inquiry.

Despite losing some big donors for the anti-labeling cause, the Grocery Manufacturers Association is the single biggest contributor to No on 522 with $11 million collected from its members. Other major donors to No on 522 include biotech and agribusiness firms such as Monsanto, which contributed almost $5.4 million, and DuPont Pioneer with $3.4 million.