TheTimesTribune.com, Corbin, KY

Community News Network

October 25, 2013

Monsanto bets $5 million in Washington State fight over altered food

SEATTLE — Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co., among the biggest makers of bioengineered crop seeds, are persuading Washington state voters to change their minds about a proposal to require labels on genetically modified food.

The companies are backing an anti-labeling campaign with $18.1 million - twice that of advocates for a ballot measure next month. The labeling proposal had a 45 percentage-point lead among registered voters five weeks ago that has narrowed to 4 points since opponents began advertising, the independent Elway Poll showed Oct. 21.

"This is a David and Goliath fight," said Trudy Bialic, a spokeswoman for PCC Natural Markets based in Seattle. Store shelves are lined with tags - "Non-GMO Project verified product" - on products from canola oil to granola bars, to reassure those who fear or distrust genetically modified organisms. "There's no way we can compete with the resources of Monsanto, Dow and DuPont."

Washington joined 26 states with proposals this year to mandate such labeling or to prohibit genetically engineered food, according to the Center for Food Safety, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group. If voters approve Initiative 522, Washington would be the first to require labels. While Connecticut and Maine have passed labeling laws, they won't take effect until more states do likewise.

PCC, whose nine stores make it the largest consumer-owned natural food retail co-operative in the U.S., donated $423,174 to support the proposal. "Vote Yes on 522!" is at the top of its website and signs urging support are posted in store windows.

Monsanto, the world's biggest seed producer, contributed $5.1 million to oppose the measure as of Oct. 2, according to MapLight, a nonpartisan research organization based in Berkeley, Calif. That compares with $1.53 billion that the St. Louis- based company spent on research and development in the year that ended in August, when sales reached $14.9 billion.

 DuPont's Pioneer, the seed unit of the Wilmington, Del.-based company, is the second-biggest corporate contributor, at $3.6 million, according to MapLight. Dow Chemical Co. based in Midland, Mich., gave $621,000.

Monsanto and DuPont, the second-biggest seed company, sell corn and soybeans that have been genetically engineered to withstand weedkillers such as Roundup. They also make corn modified to produce an insecticidal protein that allows farmers to fight pests without applying more chemicals.

The two companies were the top donors in a $46 million drive last year to defeat an effort to require labeling in California. Supporters were outspent 5-to-1.

Advocates of the Washington initiative have collected $9.1 million, mainly from health and natural food companies, according to MapLight. The biggest contributor is closely held Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, the maker of organic cleansing products and lotions in Escondido, Calif., at $2.6 million.

The Organic Consumers Association, a Finland, Minn.-based advocacy group, is second at $800,091. Mercola.com, a vendor of vitamins and nutrition products based in Hoffman Estates, Ill., gave $500,000.

The Washington measure would require labels for most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, seeds and seed stocks produced using genetic engineering. The World Health Organization definition is any organism whose genetic material has been changed in a way that doesn't occur naturally, including through introduction of a gene from another organism.

"Both sides are advertising heavily in what may be the most expensive initiative campaign in state history," according to the October report by Seattle-based Elway Research Inc.

In September, support for the referendum was ahead of opposition, 66 percent to 21 percent. After advertising on the issue began, support fell to 46 percent, with opposition rising to 42 percent, according to the Elway Poll.

The survey of 413 registered voters was taken Oct. 15-17 and has a margin of error of 5 percentage points.

The battle over genetically modified food comes as organic sales are expanding at more than three times the pace of total U.S. packaged foods, rising 10 percent to $29 billion in 2012, according to a Bloomberg Industries analysis. Agriculture companies argue that Washington's initiative would be costly and misleading to consumers, and isn't needed.

"Complicated and unnecessary labeling regulations would unfairly hurt Washington farmers, food producers and grocers, cost taxpayers millions, increase food prices and give misleading information to consumers about the safety of the products they know and trust," Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, a Monsanto spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Jane Slusark, a Pioneer spokeswoman, and Garry Hamlin, a spokesman for Dow AgroSciences, referred questions to the No on 522 Coalition.

"It provides us incomplete, inconsistent and inaccurate information," Dana Bieber, a coalition spokeswoman, said in a telephone interview. "If it's about the right to know, the proponents went ahead and exempted 70 percent of food that's even sold in the state."

The measure would boost food costs as much as $520 per year for a family of four from 2015 to 2019, according to a report last month by the Washington Research Council, a Seattle-based, business-supported organization. Farmers and food manufacturers would incur $264 million in costs to begin complying with the measure, the report said. The proposal exempts food served in restaurants.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, a Washington, D.C.- based group that represents companies such as ConAgra Foods Inc. and Kraft Foods Group Inc., has raised the most to defeat the Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued the association last week, saying it illegally collected and spent the funds while shielding the identities of its contributors.

The association set up a Washington state political committee and reported the source of its funds on Oct. 18, Janelle Guthrie, Ferguson's spokeswoman, said by e-mail. The industry group still faces a penalty, she said.

"While the GMA made the requested disclosures, there must be sanctions for violating the law and the case will move forward as filed," Ferguson said.

The Food and Drug Administration supports voluntary labeling by food manufacturers indicating whether their products have been developed through genetic engineering, according to the agency's website.

Scientific bodies from the American Association for the Advancement of Science to the World Health Organization have concluded that genetically modified foods on the market are no riskier than conventional foods.

Still, there are doubters.

"I like to know what I'm eating," Theresa Witherspoon, a 49-year-old Seattle housewife said in an interview outside the PCC store. "I'm not particularly interested in consuming things that have an unknown effect on your body."

Witherspoon, who said her sister died of stomach cancer, said she plans to vote for the initiative.

 "I'm not putting anything in my body that's going to potentially adversely affect me," Witherspoon said.

 

1
Text Only
Community News Network
  • Screen Shot 2014-07-28 at 1.33.11 PM.png VIDEO: High-dive accident caught on tape

    A woman at a water park in Idaho leaped off a 22-foot high dive platform, then tried to pull herself back up with frightening results. Fortunately, she escaped with only a cut to her finger.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • CATS-DOGS281.jpg Where cats are more popular than dogs in the U.S.-and all over the world

    We all know there are only two types of people in the world: cat people and dog people. But data from market research firm Euromonitor suggest that these differences extend beyond individual preferences and to the realm of geopolitics: it turns out there are cat countries and dog countries, too.

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • How spy agencies keep their 'toys' from law enforcement

    A little over a decade ago, federal prosecutors used keystroke logging software to steal the encryption password of an alleged New Jersey mobster, Nicodemo Scarfo Jr., so they could get evidence from his computer to be used at his trial.

    July 25, 2014

  • Russia's war on McDonald's takes aim at the Filet-o-Fish

    Russia said earlier this week that it had no intention of answering Western sanctions by making it harder for Western companies to conduct business in Russia.
    But all bets are off, apparently, when you threaten the Russian waistline.

    July 25, 2014

  • cleaning supplies Don't judge mothers with messy homes

    I was building shelves in my garage when a neighbor girl, one of my 4-year-old daughter's friends, approached me and said, "I just saw in your house. It's pretty dirty. Norah's mommy needs to clean more."

    July 25, 2014 1 Photo

  • Arizona's prolonged lethal injection is fourth in U.S. this year

    Arizona's execution of double-murderer Joseph Wood marked the fourth time this year that a state failed to dispatch a convict efficiently, according to the Constitution Project, a bipartisan legal group.3

    July 24, 2014

  • Police Brutality screen shot. Technology plays key part in battling police brutality (VIDEO)

    Allegations of police brutality are nothing new -- as long as there has been law enforcement, citizens have registered claims that some officers cross the line. But in the last few years, the claims of excessive force are being corroborated with new technology from cell phone cameras, police dash-cams and surveillance videos. 

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • Facebook continues moneymaking trend

    Facebook seems to have figured out - for now at least - the holy grail for all media right now: how to make money selling mobile ads.

    July 24, 2014

  • Has the ipad lost its swag?

    July 24, 2014

  • Almost half of America's obese youth don't know they're obese

    The good news is that after decades of furious growth, obesity rates finally seem to be leveling off in the U.S.. The bad news is that America's youth still appear to be dangerously unaware of the problem.

    July 23, 2014

Front page
NDN Video
GMA: Dog passes out from excitment to see owner "The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1" Trailer is Here! Chapter Two: Designing for Naomi Watts Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Florida Keys Webcam Captures Turtles Hatching Morgan Freeman Sucks Down Helium on 'Tonight Show' Robin Wright Can Dance! (WATCH) She's Back! See Paris Hilton's New Carl's Jr. Ad Big Weekend For Atlanta Braves In Cooperstown - @TheBuzzeronFox Chapter Two: Becoming a first-time director What's Got Jack Black Freaking Out at Comic-Con? Doctors Remove 232 Teeth From Teen's Mouth Bradley Cooper Explains His Voice in 'Guardians of the Galaxy' Deja vu: Another NYPD officer choke-holding a suspect 'Fifty Shades of Grey': Watch the Super Sexy First Trailer Now! Reports: Ravens RB Ray Rice Suspended For 1st 2 Games Of The Season Air Algerie plane with 119 on board missing over Mali Diamond Stone, Malik Newman, Josh Jackson and others showcase talent Free Arturo - The World's Saddest Polar Bear A Look Back at Batman On Film Through The Years
AP Video
Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow Raw: Deadly Tornado Hits Virginia Campground
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Facebook