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Big Food broke ‘spirit, letter’ of law in campaign against WA state’s GMO labeling initiative

| | March 15, 2016

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The nation’s largest food industry group broke the “spirit and letter” of the law when it concealed the backers of a multimillion dollar campaign to kill a food-labeling initiative, a state of Washington Superior Court judge ruled on [March 11].

The pre-trial ruling, by Thurston County Superior Court Judge Anne Hirsch, found that the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association, the food industry group, violated the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws when it tried to hide the identities of the corporate funders. . . .

The state Initiative 522, which would have required food labels for genetically modified ingredients, was narrowly defeated.

. . . .

The facts of the case are undisputed. The GMA created a special fund (called “Defense of Brands”) specifically to fight GMO labeling efforts, and they collected $14 million in payments from member companies. . . (See the funders here.) Meeting notes, memos, and other internal GMA documents clearly show that shielding member identities was one of the primary purposes of the fund.

. . . .

. . . .The State’s lawsuit contended that the GMA was required to register with the Public Disclosure Committee, an oversight group, and report contributors. Although the GMA finally did both those things (“under duress,” according to the ruling) just a few weeks before the election. . .

The GMA maintained both that the law was “unconstitutionally vague,” and that the enforcement effort had unfairly singled out the group. The ruling found that “both of these arguments fail.”

The court did not determine the penalty amount because it will depend on whether the GMA’s violation was intentional, a question to be settled at trial.

Read full, original post: Big Food Illegally Hid Funders of Campaign to Kill GMO-Labeling Effort, Judge Rules

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