The Washington Post

Money begins to flow in Oregon over its GMO ballot measure


People hold signs during one of many worldwide “March Against Monsanto” protests against Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and agro-chemicals, in Los Angeles, in October 2013. (Lucy Nicholson/Reuters)

Oregon’s food fight is just getting started.

A ballot measure that would require the labeling of genetically modified foods has already seen significant amounts of cash raised by businesses on both sides of the issue, according to campaign finance filings, even though the election is more than two months away.

A committee formed to fight the Oregon measure, No on 92, has raised more than $300,000 in cash contributions so far. Half of that amount — $150,000 — was donated by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, an industry trade group. Monsanto contributed more than $82,000, Dupont donated more than $58,000, and Dow AgroSciences contributed more than $10,000. Those numbers only reflect contributions through the end of July.

“We are on a 30-day reporting cycle now,” group spokesman Pat McCormick told The Oregonian. “We will be reporting everything as soon as the law requires us to.”

Oregon Right to Know, which sponsored the measure, has raised more than $1.4 million in cash contributions through the end of July, nearly half of which was raised last month, according to campaign finance filings. Mercola.com, the centerpiece of Joseph Mercola’s natural foods business which includes a variety of branded products, contributed $350,000. Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps contributed a quarter-million dollars. Two hundred thousand dollars was donated by the Organic Consumers Fund, a grass-roots lobbying organization. And energy-bar maker Clif Bar donated $100,000. The recently formed “Vote Yes on Measure 92: We have the Right to Know What’s in our Food” has raised roughly $75,000.

If recent history is any guide, the money in Oregon is just an appetizer. A group opposed to a similar measure in Washington last year, Initiative 522, won its fight, and along the way made that ballot measure campaign the most expensive in state history. Of the roughly $22 million raised by No on 522, slightly more than $900,000 had come in through the end of July, according to campaign finance data.

Much of the money raised in Washington also came from the same groups currently active in Oregon. In the end, a Grocery Manufacturers Association committee contributed $11 million to the Washington fight, fueled by donations of more than $1.5 million each from Coca-Cola, Pepsico and Nestle as well as still-substantial donations from other food companies. Monsanto contributed more than $5 million. Dupont contributed nearly $4 million, and Dow AgroSciences contributed nearly $600,000.

A similar measure qualified for the Colorado ballot last week. The group backing that measure, Right to Know Colorado, has spent at least $100,000 between last May and this July. In announcing last week that the group’s proposal qualified for the ballot, the Colorado Secretary of State estimated it had submitted nearly 125,000 signatures.

 

Niraj Chokshi is a general assignment reporter for The Washington Post.

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