Washington State’s Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a lawsuit this week against the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), big food’s national lobby group representing brands like General Mills, Kellogg’s, Kraft and Pepsico, for violating the state’s campaign disclosure laws. Ferguson alleges that GMA, the largest contributor to the ‘No on 522’ campaign, illegally collected and spent a sum of $7.2 million to defeat Washington’s GE labeling initiative, while hiding the identity of its contributors.
“It’s time these companies listen to consumers, and support full transparency when it comes to genetically engineered ingredients,” said Scott Faber, executive director of Just Label It. “Consumers deserve the right to know what they’re eating and feeding their families.”
Just Label It launched a petition in August 2013 targeting many of the GMA’s members, demanding that Monsanto, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Kraft, Pepsico and 60 other major food and chemical companies stop trying to keep Americans in the dark about which products contain genetically engineered ingredients. The petition has collected more than 100,000 signatures to date.
Polls show that more than 90% of American consumers want to know about the food they’re eating, a right held by citizens in 64 countries around the world that already require mandatory labeling of GE foods.
The GMA is the largest donor to the No on I 522 campaign.
The AG’s lawsuit comes on the heels of a similar lawsuit filed by the non-profit Moms for Labeling. Earlier this month, Superior Court Judge Chris Wickham dismissed the lawsuit and bizarrely attached a $10,000 fine plus attorneys fees to be paid by the plaintiffs.
Although the attorney for the No on 522 campaign claimed “complete victory,” the judge did not rule on the merits of the case but rather on the timing, saying the Moms group violated state filing regulations by not waiting 55 days after giving notice for an action to sue.
At that point, this Pam Johnson of Moms for Labeling called on the attorney general “ to step in and defend the voters of Washington from out-of-state corporations that are ignoring our law. The court said that only he can do it.”
And step in he did. Ferguson filed suit in Thurston County Superior Court asking for a temporary restraining order and for the GMA to immediately comply with state disclosure laws, indicating who contributed, how much they contributed, and how the money was spent to oppose I 522. He is also requesting civil penalties and cost of investigation and trial, including reasonable attorneys fees.
Jack Olmsted’s video blog on Seattle PI gathered some reaction to the lawsuit from across the US.