Industry outspent advocates 3-to-1 in GMO food fight

The agriculture and biotechnology industries have poured $22 million into the campaign to defeat a high-profile Washington state initiative calling for mandatory labels on products, according to new data released on the eve of the vote.

Led by major industry players including Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer and PepsiCo, opponents of Washington’s Initiative 522 outspent backers of the measure by a margin of almost 3-to-1, a MapLight analysis found. 

Proponents, including advocate groups, organic farmers and the company Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, spent $7.7 million, according to the nonpartisan research group, which tracks money in politics

Tuesday’s contest is the latest front in the ongoing battle over genetically modified organisms (GMO). Critics of GMO crops and food, including advocacy groups and organic farmers, warn that they could pose threats to public health and damage the environment. 

If the measure is passed, Washington would be the first state to require across-the board GMO labeling.

Industry and biotechnology groups maintain that GMO crop products are perfectly safe. Mandatory labels, they argue, are unnecessary and could prejudice consumers against important technological advancements.

The Washington initiative follows a California ballot initiative known as Prop. 37, which was beaten back last year. Industry groups and other critics of the Golden State measure pumped more than $44 million into the opposition campaign, outspending proponents by a margin of more than 4-to-1.

The $22 million in opposition spending in Washington came from less than 60 contributors, while more than 10,000 donors gave money in support of the measure, according to MapLight.