The Capitol Record

Attorney General sues food industry group over GMO labeling initiative

Attorney General Bob Ferguson today sued the Grocery Manufacturing Association, accusing it of skirting state disclosure laws in its effort to defeat a GMO food labeling initiative.

The Grocery Manufacturing Association has collected and spent more than $7 million to oppose Initiative 522, which would require labels on foods with genetically modified ingredients.

Ferguson alleges in the lawsuit that the Grocery Manufacturers Association concealed the source of its contributions by creating a separate account called the “Defense of Brand Strategic Account.”

According to a GMA memo that is cited in the lawsuit, the group created the separate account to “allow for greater planning for the funds to combat current threats and better shield individual companies from attack that provide funding for specific efforts.”

The Grocery Manufacturers Association is based in Washington D.C. and represents more than 300 food and beverage companies.

Ferguson contends that the food group should have formed a separate political committee, registered with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission and filed reports with the names of its contributors.

The attorney general’s office said it is preparing a temporary restraining order asking the court to force the Grocery Manufacturers Association to immediately comply with state disclosure laws.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association issued a press release Wednesday that said it was looking into the allegations.

“GMA takes great care to understand and comply with all state election and campaign finance laws and is surprised to learn that the Washington State authorities viewed the association’s actions as improper,” the association said.

“GMA will review its actions in Washington State and relevant statutes and continue to cooperate with state authorities to fully resolve the issue as promptly as possible.”

TVW produced a documentary about GMOs and Initiative 522 — watch it and find more information at

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