Recent lobbying data shows that agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto and food companies like Nestlé have greatly increased spending in attempt to fight genetically modified food labeling. A lobbying group called the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), an organization that represents hundreds of food and beverage companies, reported the largest increase in spending from the previous quarter, according to Open Secrets.
Two key pieces of legislation introduced this year to require GMO labeling are Initiative 522, which would have enforced stricter labeling, and a bill introduced this spring by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR). The bill would require food producers to label products containing any genetically modified ingredients or face having their products classified as “misbranded” by the FDA, according to The Huffington Post.
The GMO “Right-To-Know-Act” is the first GMO labeling bill with bipartisan support and co-sponsors in both the House and Senate.
In response, Monsanto and Nestlé were among the top 10 organizations with the biggest increases in spending for the third quarter of this year. Monsanto has spent $5.3 million this year so far to lobby against GMO labeling. Chemical and pharmaceutical giant, Bayer, has spent more than $3.2 million on lobbying this year, and is specifically targeting the Right-To-Know bill.
The trade group Grocery Manufacturers Association spent about $7.4 million on federal lobbying just during the third quarter, an increase of more than $6.2 million from the last quarter.
The state of Washington recently announced a lawsuit against the GMA for violating campaign finance laws, Reuters reports. Attorney General Bob Ferguson alleges that the lobbying group illegally collected and spent over $7 million lobbying against Initiative 522, without disclosing the identities of its donors.
Lobbying by the agricultural biotechnology and food processing industries has successfully destroyed legislation to require labeling. Monsanto and DuPont, which has spent more than $5.1 million on lobbying this year, spent millions to defeat Washington’s Initiative 522. Bayer CropScience, Dow AgroSciences, and the GMA were also among the top contributors lobbying to quash the initiative.
Opponents of Initiative 522 raised $22 million to fight the measure – a state record, according to the Associated Press. On Tuesday, the initiative failed at the polls, with 58.4 percent of voters against, and 45.2 percent in favor. If the initiative had passed, Washington would have been the first state to enact mandatory GMO food labeling requirements.
Early polling showed voter approval for Initiative 522; however, food lobbyists and biotechnology companies bombarded Washington residents with TV and radio ads claiming that passing the measure would raise food prices. The companies outspent supporters of the initiative 3 to 1. The GMA received millions in donations from top food producers including General Mills, Coca-Cola, and PepsiCo.
California’s Prop 37, which would have required retailers and companies to label products containing genetically modified ingredients, was also defeated last year. Companies like Monsanto, Nestlé, and The Hershey Co. spent $44 million to lobby against the proposition, while proponents of the measure were only able to raise $7.3 million, according to California Watch.
A 2010 US national survey found that 93 percent of respondents believed that genetically engineered foods should be labeled. Sixty-four other countries already require genetically modified foods to be labeled as such. Proponents of the Right-To-Know-Act and GMO labeling believe that people have the right know what is in their food, whether it is harmful or not.