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(The original article published on March 15, 2016)

How Food Companies Illegally Spent $11 Million to Block GMO Labeling

The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) was found guilty of covering up donations that funded their efforts to block GMO labeling laws in 2013.

The GMA doesn’t have many friends in good food. It’s a trade organization that represents the biggest food brands, and it was the largest single donor to the political committee against a 2013 GMO labeling initiative. In a GMA GMO labeling lawsuit should that surprise no one, the GMA was found guilty of covertly funneling money into an anti-labeling campaign.

The 2013 campaign in question was against Initiative 522, a Washington state bill that which sought to require labeling of genetically engineered foods. At the time of voting, we previously reported that even though similar initiatives for labeling were lost, “I-522 looks posed to turn that assumption on its head, with 66% of voters polled in that state saying they will definitely or probably vote in favor of mandatory GMO labeling this November.”

The GMA raised $14 million from the companies it represents and used most of those funds to fight GMO labeling in Washington state. The group hid the companies making the donations by lumping them all under an account they called “Defense of Brands.”

Of the $14 million donated to the fight against Initiative 522, the GMA spent about $11 million in Washington state. Because the money went through their Defense of Brands account, the funds were listed as coming from the GMA, rather than from the individual donors.

This decision to hide the true funding sources– which is written in meeting minutes from the GMA Board’s Finance and Audit Committee– was specifically chosen to “provide anonymity and eliminate state filing requirements for contributing members,” and, “shield individual companies from public disclosure and possible criticism.”

That turned out to be a bad move – one that’s backfiring on them now. Judge Hirsch said that this decision “violated the spirit and letter of Washington’s Public Campaign Finance Laws.” However, EcoWatch reports that because it is unclear whether the GMA’s misreading of this law was intentional or not, the penalty has not yet been decided.

The top 10 contributors to GMA’s Defense of Brands account, put in place to fight labeling:

1. PepsiCo: $2.696 million

2. Nestle USA, Inc.: $1.751 million

3. The Coca-Cola Company: $1.742 million

4. General Mills: $996,000

5. ConAgra: $949,000

6. Campbell Soup: $441,000

7. The Hershey Company: $413,000

8. J.M. Smucker: $401,000

9. Kellogg: $369,000

10. Land O’Lakes: $332,000

See how your favorite companies spent their money to block GMO labeling initiatives in Colorado and Oregon.

As reported on Nation of Change, Attorney General Bob Ferguson said about the case: “This landmark case has been a long fight for accountability [and] this ruling sends an unequivocal message: Big money donors cannot evade Washington law and hide from public scrutiny.”

Consumer Pressure Drives GMO Labeling

The GMA funnelling money into anti-labeling campaigns has certainly slowed down progress in the GMO labeling arena, but they can’t silence consumer voices. Small and mainstream companies are dumping GMOs in response to consumer pressure.

In an awesome turn of events, Campbell’s soup recently made headlines for announcing that they are now in favor of GMO labeling, and will be distancing themselves from the GMA and other groups that fight against the consumer’s right to know.

And last year, Hershey‘s also said they would drop GMOs from many of their products too.

Even though these producers were on the wrong side of this GMO fight, it seems that consumer pressure is encouraging them to make a stand for consumers’ right to know and food transparency.

All this adds up to more good news for good food: a trend that I see moving forward with more momentum than ever before.

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It all boils down to the power of your dollars. Regardless of protests, consumer spending always dominate the decisions of corporations across all industries. And don’t even count on the illusion that these same companies learned their lesson on the demand of organic foods rising.

But what gets us the most is these companies SPENDING MILLIONS on top of millions of dollars to keep YOU, the consumer, in the dark of what’s going in your food! This is your body we’re talking about here! Are they for real?

They spent millions of dollars to insult YOUR intelligence of making an inform decision of what you put in your body based on the fact of – if what you’re buying for yourself and your family has been genetically altered, INSTEAD OF INVESTING that same money in educating the consumer on the importance of understanding the difference between GMOs and organic, and allow the consumer to make an informed decision regarding that product. Therefore, these same companies could’ve built a trust among the organic community, thus continue to grow their company while providing a sustainable organic product and producing a healthy profit in the process.

And to top it off, that same money used to keep YOU in the dark could’ve been REDIRECTED towards developing a strategic partnership with small and medium sized family farms and ranches growing and humanely raising the produce and organic meats, thus build up America’s bread basket while lowering the overall cost of organic foods from the field to the dinner table. All without costing the company or its shareholders more money because THEY WAS GOING TO SPEND IT ANYWAY. They just decided to spend it instead on telling you that you’re too stupid to know the difference so you don’t have to know the labels because America’s already too illiterate as it is to read the damn thing anyway.

We already lost faith in the major food companies at the point where even if they did sell you organic, it’s IN NAME ONLY. These brands butchered that trust. You must know what’s going in your food. This is a matter between life and death. And any company that spends half of the U.S. GDP keeping you in the dark instead of investing in educating its consumers has no respect whatsoever on the basic nutritional welfare or health for you or your family. I don’t know about you, but to us that’s like trusting a hitman who was hired to take you and your family out – slowly, where it’s “just business”.

If you’re sick and tired of the hidden agendas of the major food conglomerates, and wants to go back to nature, I suggest you make a decision right now on where you’re spending your next dollars on. Click here for more info.

The Fat Diminisher

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