Colorado is Underdog in GMO Labeling Election Battle

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With more than $25 million poured in to defeat statewide GMO labeling ballot initiatives in 2014, a small cabal of multi-national biotech, pesticide and junk food companies seeks to buy the elections in Colorado and Oregon.

Seeking to crush a groundswell movement in the U.S. to label genetically modified (GMO) foods, a small group of multi-billion-dollar pesticide, biotech and junk food companies have poured more than $14 million into Colorado in September and October to defeat Proposition 105, a grassroots voter initiative to label GMO foods.

Just 10 corporations, including Monsanto, DuPont, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Kraft, General Mills, Hershey, Smucker, Dow and Kellogg, are responsible for more than $13 million of the $14.3 million total contributed to kill the Colorado GMO labeling bill.

Also of note among the donors seeking to defeat the Colorado GMO labeling bill are Abbot Nutrition and Mead Johnson, companies that make nutritional formulas for infants and the elderly – companies that do not want mandatory GMO labeling on their packaging.

In contrast, while more than 170,000 Coloradans signed petitions to place the bill on the November statewide ballot – nearly twice the number of signatures needed – the underdog Right to Know Colorado campaign has raised less than $1 million in cash and pledges, mostly through small business donations along with hundreds of $5, $10, and $25 contributions to the campaign from primarily Colorado citizens.

“I can’t understand why these corporations would put over $14 million into a Colorado campaign where the pro-labeling side has less than $1 million,” said Larry Cooper, Co-chair of the Right to Know Colorado campaign. “What are they trying to hide?”

More Biotech Funds Targeted to Colorado than Oregon Ironically, while a similar GMO labeling voter bill in Oregon, Measure 92, has been able to raise significantly more funding - $6.3 million in total - biotech has pumped more into Colorado than Oregon to defeat the GMO labeling measure - although that gap is closing rapidly as Election Day approaches. Monsanto, PepsiCo, Kraft, Coca-Cola, Land O'Lakes, General Mills, Hershey and other chemical and food multinationals top the list of donors to the No on 92 campaign in Oregon. To see the list of donors to both the Yes and No sides in Oregon, visit http://gov.oregonlive.com/election/2014/finance/measure-92/.

Delayed until the Colorado Supreme Court finally cleared the initiative to move forward in March following a complaint filed by the anti-labeling opposition, the Right to Know Colorado campaign got a late start but surprised industry followers by collecting more than twice the number of signatures needed to place the bill on the November ballot.

The Yes on 105 campaign has received important media endorsements from the Daily Camera, Colorado's second largest newspaper, and BizWest, one of the state's leading business journals. Additionally, in September, a 20-member Citizens Initiative Review panel endorsed Colorado’s Prop. 105 to label GMOs by a vote of 11-9. (A similar panel in Oregon voted 11-9 against Measure 92.)

In Colorado, Chipotle Mexican Grill, Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, and Whole Foods Market have provided significant support for the Yes on 105 campaign, helping to get out the vote through their stores and via endorsements and social media.

Major contributors to Colorado's Yes on 105 and also the Oregon pro-labeling campaign include Presence Marketing/Dynamic Presence, Food Democracy Now, Organic Consumers Association, Annie's Inc., Dr. Bronner’s, Boulder Brands and others. For a complete list visit www.righttoknowcolorado.org/donors and www.oregonrighttoknow.org/endorsements.

Grassroots organizations endorsing the Right to Know Colorado ballot initiative include Moms Across America, Rocky Mountain Farmers Union, Colorado Moms for GMO Labeling, Conservation Colorado, Alliance for Sustainable Colorado, Hazon, and others.

Seeing this rising tide of grassroots consumer and citizen support for GMO labeling as a threat to profits, Monsanto, Dow, DuPont, Pepsi, Coke, Kraft, Grocery Manufacturers Association, and other pesticide, biotech and junk food companies have teamed up to spend more than $125 million over the past three years to defeat GMO labeling ballot initiatives in California and Washington in 2012 and 2013, and in Oregon and Colorado this year.

More than 93% of Americans want GMO labeling, according to a 2013 New York Times survey, and in late September, before the anti-labeling ad blitz on TV, 71% of Colorado voters favored GMO labeling, yet less than three dozen chemical, pesticide and junk food companies continue to fight history with a withering amount of cash to barrage the airwaves in Oregon and Colorado with deceptive advertising to confuse voters about GMO labeling - and to buy our elections.

To donate, volunteer, or for information and to support the GMO labeling campaigns in Colorado and Oregon, visit www.righttoknowcolorado.org and www.oregonrighttoknow.org.

Steven Hoffman has served as lead fundraiser for GMO labeling campaigns including Prop. 37 in California in 2012, Washington State's I-522 in 2012, and Proposition 105 to Label GMO Foods in Colorado in 2014.