Washington state sues lobbyists over campaign against GM labelling

Reuters / A lobbying group for major U.S. food manufacturers has violated campaign finance laws in its attempt to block a measure that would require labelling of genetically modified foods in Washington state, according to a lawsuit filed by the state’s attorney general.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson alleges that the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) illegally collected and spent more than $7 million while shielding the identity of its contributors. Overall, opponents of ballot initiative 522, set for a public vote on Nov. 5, have spent more than $13 million to convince voters that labelling foods made with genetically engineered crop ingredients is a bad idea.

GMA, which has more than 300 companies as members, said in a statement that it was surprised by the lawsuit because it has taken “great care to understand and comply with all state election and campaign finance laws.”

The Yes on 522 campaign, which has spent $5.4 million backing a labelling law, said it was heartened by the lawsuit.

“They don’t want to tell us who is funding the No on 522 campaign — just like they don’t want Washington consumers to know what is in their food,” said Elizabeth Larter, spokeswoman for the Yes campaign.

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