Opponents of Colorado GMO labeling draw millions in donations

EDITOR’S NOTE: It’s been more than 10 years since an initiative to label foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) first made it to a state ballot. That Oregon initiative lost, but ever since, the push to identify GMOs has appeared on more ballots in more states, losing with narrower and narrower margins each time. The fight has also grown more heated, as outside groups pour money into states contemplating labeling laws. As Luke Runyon, KUNC and Harvest Public Media report, one such proposal, Colorado’s Proposition 105, has become one of this season’s most expensive ballot initiatives.

In the fight over whether some foods in Colorado should sport a label about genetically modified ingredients, each campaign finance filing shows an increasingly lopsided race. In a two-week period in September, the committee working to get the measure passed raised about $120,000. Those opposed raised $8.1 million.

Right To Know Colorado GMO, the group that gathered the signatures to put Proposition 105 on the ballot, currently has $81,434 in cash on hand. The No On 105 Coalition, the group opposed to labels, has $4.2 million on hand.

Proponents of GMO labeling argue consumers have an indisputable right to know how certain foods are grown and prepared, and labels will shed light on the prevalence of genetically modified ingredients in processed food. Many oils and sugars in processed foods are derived from GM crops like corn, soybeans and sugar beets.

Those opposed to labeling say Proposition 105, with its bevy of exemptions for dairy, meat, beer, chewing gum and pet food, will only lead to more confusion at the grocery store, and could cause economic hardships for Colorado farmers who grow genetically modified crops. There’s no peer-reviewed scientific literature to suggest eating genetically modified foods causes any health problems in humans.

Recent labeling fights in other states like California and Washington have pulled in big dollar amounts. Colorado is no exception, with the latest campaign finance filing showing large checks pouring in. Top donors this election cycle for the No On 105 Coalition include some of the largest food and biotech companies in the world:

  • Monsanto Corporation – $4.7 million
  • PepsiCo – $1.1 million
  • Kraft Foods – $1 million

Right To Know Colorado GMO has mostly subsisted on smaller checks from individuals, with a handful of larger donors. Those top donors include activist groups and prominent voices in the organic and natural products sector:

  • Food Democracy Action – $140,000
  • Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps – $25,000
  • John Foraker (CEO of food company Annie’s) – $10,000

With all that money being raised, voters should expect to see and hear a lot more about Proposition 105 in the coming weeks — the No On 105 Coalition spent more than $4.7 million on advertising this filing period.