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Forum Post: Washington Attorney General Sues GMO Labeling Opponents for Hiding Corporate Donors

Posted 10 months ago on Oct. 19, 2013, 6:58 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5854)
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Washington Attorney General Sues GMO Labeling Opponents for Hiding Corporate Donors

Friday, 18 October 2013 14:12 By Mike Ludwig, Truthout | Report

http://truth-out.org/news/item/19489-washington-attorney-general-sues-gmo-labeling-opponents-for-hiding-corporate-donors

The state of Washington has accused opponents of a ballot initiative that would label groceries containing genetically engineered ingredients of hiding their donors in a campaign that has seen a flood of out of state money from big corporations such as Monsanto.

On Wednesday, Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit alleging that the Grocery Manufacturers Association violated the state's campaign finance laws by failing to disclose the sources of its $7.2 million in contributions to No on 522, the main group campaigning against the labeling initiative.

Washington's Initiative 522 would require groceries containing genetically engineered ingredients and genetically engineered seed stocks to be labeled as such. Genetically engineered foods are also called Genetically Modified Organisms, or GMOs.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association is a trade group that represents more than 300 food and beverage companies, including Pepsico, Coca-Cola and Kraft, which joined big biotech firms in donating millions to defeat a similar GMO labeling initiative in California last year.

Ferguson is asking a state court for a temporary restraining order to force the trade association to reveal the identities of the donor companies it has shielded from the public eye before voters go to the polls in November.

Evidence Reveals Effort to Hide Donors

Two months after California voters rejected a GMO labeling initiative last year, the Grocery Manufacturers Association directed its employees to "scope out a funding mechanism to address the GMO issue . . . while better shielding individual companies from attack for providing funding," according to evidence cited in the attorney general's complaint.

Support for the California labeling initiative dropped dramatically after $46 million in donations from companies such as Dupont, Monsanto and Pepsico flooded the campaign, and California voters rejected GMO labeling by a narrow margin last November.

In February, Grocery Manufacturers Association CEO Pamela Bailey issued a memo to establish a "Defense of Brand Strategic Account" to raise money from member companies to oppose Initiative 522 while only reporting the trade association's name to state campaign finance authorities, according to the complaint.

In a statement, the Grocery Manufacturers Association said it is reviewing its actions and relevant state laws and will "continue to cooperate with state authorities to fully resolve the issue as promptly as possible."

In a statement, the Yes on 522 campaign demanded that their opponents drop their anti-labeling advertisements until their donors are made public. No on 522 did not respond to an inquiry from Truthout by the time this article was posted.

Monsanto and Friends vs. Natural and Organics Companies The battle over GMO labeling in Washington features many of the same agribusiness and natural products companies that compete in supermarkets and butted heads over the California initiative last year. The No on 522 campaign has raised $17 million total so far and has come under fire for taking millions in donations from powerful out-of-state corporations in the GMO and pesticide business. Of those companies that have come clean on their contributions, the biotech giant Monsanto has donated $4.8 million, and Dupont has donated $3.2 million, while Bayer CropScience and Dow Agrosciences each gave $591,654, according to Truthout's review of state records. The Yes on 522 campaign has raised almost $5.6 million from organic consumer groups, anti-GMO groups, alternative health firms and organics companies such as Nutiva, Natures Path Foods and Annie's Inc. Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps tops the list with $1.8 million in contributions to Yes on 522.

Six other campaign committees are also supporting Initiative 522 in Washington.

Last month, 66 percent of Washington voters polled said they would "definitively" or "probably" vote for the GMO labeling initiative.

Copyright, Truthout.

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[-] 2 points by LeoYo (5854) 10 months ago

Whether or Not You Like It, You're Helping McDonald's Succeed

Saturday, 19 October 2013 13:54 By Kristina Chew, Care2 | Report

http://truth-out.org/news/item/19509-whether-or-not-you-like-it-youre-helping-mcdonalds-succeed

Low fast-food wages come at a very high cost to U.S. taxpayers, a new report from University of California, Berkeley and University of Illinois researchers (pdf) has found. 52 percent of fast food workers are paid so little that they have no choice but to turn to some kind of government assistance.

That is, U.S. taxpayers, whether they eat at McDonald’s, Subway, etc. or not, are subsidizing the very fast food restaurants that offer jobs which are so low-paying that, as one worker recently said to CEO Jeff Stratton, she could not afford to pay for shoes or food for her two children after working for the company for ten years. Whether they eat at fast-food restaurants are not, taxpayers are also supporting businesses that serve Americans untold quantities of unhealthy food linked to diabetes, obesity and other health problems.

Most fast food workers are in “non-managerial” positions (cooks, servers and cashiers) and do not receive any benefits. The report says that they are twice as likely as other workers to have to seek out public assistance. Between 2007 and 2011, a total of $7 billion of taxpayers’ money was spent on their behalf.

Researchers arrived at that figure by looking at four types of public assistance: food stamps, healthcare, the Earned Income Tax Credit and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (aka “welfare“). They did not take into account a number of other forms of public assistance (subsidized housing, school lunches, home heating assistance or state-provided programs) so the amount of public funds that fast food workers need could actually be far higher.

Overall, it is “the rule rather than the exception” for fast food workers paid the overall median wage of $8.69 an hour to be in need of public assistance, says Ken Jacobs, the chairman of the U.C. Berkeley Labor Center and one of the authors of the report. Only a meager 13 percent of fast food workers receive benefits such as health insurance.

A companion report (pdf) from the National Employment Law Project estimates that, due to low wages and non-existent benefits, the ten largest fast food companies cost U.S. taxpayers $3.8 billion a year, with McDonalds accounting for almost a third of that ($1.2 billion). As Jack Temple, a public policy analyst at NELP, explains,

“It doesn’t matter whether you work or shop at McDonald’s or not, the low-wage business model is expensive for everybody, Companies … are basically pushing off part of their costs on the taxpayers.”

The National Restaurant Association, a trade organization and fast food companies have been quick to get on the defensive. Fast food restaurants offer “millions of Americans, women and men from all backgrounds” the chance to “move up the ladder and succeed,” the National Restaurant Association claims. A spokesman for McDonalds sidesteps the issues of highlighted in the two reports with assertions that

“…our history is full of examples of individuals who worked their first job with McDonald’s and went on to successful careers both within and outside of McDonald’s” and that “as with most small businesses, wages are based on local wage laws and are competitive to similar jobs in that market.”

McDonald’s being a global company that counts its profits in the billions (and the world’s largest hamburger chain), it seems a bit disingenuous for its spokesman to refer to McDonald’s restaurants as “small businesses.” Many McDonald’s outlets are franchises run by individuals; as has been noted, franchise owners struggle to make a profit as they are only supposed to purchase supplies from McDonald’s and must also follow other rules set down by corporate headquarters.

The two reports are added proof that fast food workers (who went on strike in 50 cities this past summer) must be paid a just wage and be eligible for benefits. If you haven’t already, sign this petition to make it clear to fast food companies that U.S. taxpayers are fed up with footing the bill for them.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

[-] 0 points by HCHC4 (-28) 10 months ago

Big vote coming up in Washington in a couple weeks.

Monsanto spend over 20 million in Cali to defeat prop 37. Hopefully this one goes a bit different.