By: Dr. Mercola
During last year's I-522 ballot campaign to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Washington State, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) came up with a devious, and illegal, money-laundering scheme to protect the identity of members who donated funds to the opposing campaign.
You might remember that several major food companies experienced major backlash from consumers when their contributions to the 2012 anti-labeling campaign in California (Prop. 37) came to light, and those donating to the Washington campaign certainly wanted to avoid the same fate.
Unfortunately, this illegal move helped the GMA defeat I-522 (by a mere one percent margin), but they did get their just deserts… the GMA was sued by Attorney General Bob Ferguson in 2013, who accused them of intentional money laundering and violating state campaign disclosure laws.
Several developments have happened since then, including the GMA trying to sue a state (twice) – a motion that was recently rejected. More on that shortly; first let's take a look at some of GMA's sordid history.
GMA's Plot to Defeat I-522 Began in 2012
On October 16, 2013, Attorney General Ferguson filed suit against the GMA on behalf of the State of Washington, alleging the association had violated the state's campaign disclosure laws. According to the press release:1
"Ferguson alleges the GMA illegally collected and spent more than $7 million while shielding the identity of its contributors. The funds were spent to express opposition to Initiative 522…
'When Washington state voters overwhelmingly approved Initiative 276 in 1972, they voiced their desire for transparency and openness in elections,' Ferguson said. 'Truly fair elections demand all sides follow the rules by disclosing who their donors are and how much they are spending to advocate their views.'
…The AGO [Attorney general's office] is preparing to seek a temporary restraining order asking the court to order the GMA to immediately comply with state disclosure laws. The AGO is also requesting civil penalties and costs of investigation and trial, including reasonable attorney's fees, injunctive relief and any other relief the court deems appropriate."
According to the filed complaint, the GMA began plotting and planning how to best defeat Initiative 522 back in December of 2012, placing particular emphasis on the establishment of a separate GMA fund to "combat current threats and better shield individual companies from attack."
A previous Politico report revealed that a key aspect of the GMA's plan for combating GMO labeling efforts across the US included the pursuit of statutory federal preemption—a law that prevents a labeling requirement.2
This is but one part of a detailed, five-pronged strategic plan to keep its members from having to reveal what their foods are made of. The documents released through the Attorney General also revealed quite a bit about the GMA's strategic plan by what they hide.3 Large sections of the documents are redacted, including:
I for one am curious as to who this mysterious entity is that has "directed" the GMA to oppose labeling in the face of public demand for disclosure and transparency…
- A portion under the heading "Industry Image Efforts," which appears to be related to the GMA's plan for addressing "attackers," i.e. people and organizations working toward letting you know what's in your food
- Under the subhead "Industry Image Campaign," it is revealed that a PR firm, the name of which is redacted, "has been retained to help develop a comprehensive program for execution in 2014." The details relating to this plan are redacted
- A section redacted in its entirety is titled, "Examining Options for Conveying Information to Consumers"
- Also redacted is the name of an entity that "understands the need for continued opposition to efforts at the state level to impose mandatory labels and has directed GMA staff to continue to oppose such efforts."
- Also redacted are several pages-worth relating to the Association's long-term plans to quench GMO transparency issues
The GMA was actually forced to reveal the donors to their aggressive anti-labeling campaign, but they're continuing to insist that they should be allowed to hide their donors in order to "speak with one voice" for the interests of the food industry.
Since then, GMA has again removed its online membership list. Clearly, there's a concerted effort to hide who is behind this radical front group. You can still find the cached members list on web.archive.org, however.4
GMA Tried to Get the 'Natural' Label to Include GMOs
On December 5, 2013, the GMA sent a letter to Elizabeth Dickinson, Chief Counsel of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), informing her that "GMA will be filing a Citizen Petition early in 2014 that asks FDA to issue a regulation authorizing foods containing ingredients derived from biotechnology to be labeled "natural."5
According to the letter, 26 state legislatures are currently considering whether GMOs should be permitted in products bearing a "natural" label, and some 65 class-action lawsuits have been filed against food manufacturers who use GMO ingredients in their "natural" products.
The GMA essentially wants the FDA to settle the dispute and close the door on future lawsuits – even though genetically modified (GM) foods are clearly far from natural.
GMA Fires Back, Countersues the State of Washington and Threatens to Sue Vermont
To add even more drama to this saga, on January 13, 2014 the Washington State Office of the Attorney General announced that the GMA has countersued the state, challenging its campaign finance laws.6
Essentially, the GMA is suing for the right to hide corporate campaign funds—a move that threatens the transparency of the state's election process on every issue.
What's more, the GMA has also filed a civil rights complaint against the Attorney General himself, claiming that he acted unconstitutionally when he enforced the state's laws. This is bullying at its finest, but fortunately Attorney General Ferguson is no wuss, boldly declaring:
"After breaking our state's campaign finance disclosure laws, the GMA now seeks to have them declared unconstitutional. I look forward to defending transparency in Washington elections."
A GMA document also lays out a clear-cut strategy for addressing any state that successfully implements a GMO labeling law, stating that, "The first state to implement a GMO labeling law will be sued on the constitutional grounds seen in IDFA v. Amestoy."
On April 16, the Vermont Senate passed the first no-strings-attached GMO labeling bill (H.112) by an overwhelming margin. Like clockwork, on May 9 the GMA confirmed it will indeed sue Vermont in federal court, in an effort to overturn H.112. This is the second time in mere months that the GMA is suing a state for the right to pull the wool over your eyes!
Superior Court Judge Rejects GMA's Motion for Dismissal
In its countersuit, the GMA requested that the case against them be dismissed, but Thurston County Superior Court Judge Christine Schaller has ruled against them. As reported by Nation of Change:7
"…the states' case against the (GMA) will move forward, rejecting the GMA's motion to dismiss the case completely based on constitutional grounds…Schaller ruled that the state's campaign laws require the formation of a political committee, and disclosures were constitutionally applied…
Hopefully as the trial proceeds, the 300 food and beverage manufacturers who illegally contributed to the GMA's slush fund will learn their lesson. These companies include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Frito Lay, General Mills, and more."
Attorney General Ferguson appeared heartened by the ruling, stating it was time to hold the GMA accountable:8"Today's ruling is an important step in our work to hold the Grocery Manufacturers Association accountable for the largest campaign finance concealment case in Washington history… We intend to send a strong message to all: If you want to engage in political campaigns in Washington, you have to play by the rules."
For those who are new to this issue, I recently named the GMA "the most evil corporation on the planet," considering the fact that it consists primarily of pesticide producers and junk food manufacturers who are going to great lengths to violate some of your most basic rights—just to ensure that subsidized, genetically engineered and chemical-dependent, highly processed junk food remains the status quo. The primary GM crops grown in the US are corn, soy, and sugar beets, and the primary ingredients in processed food are high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), hydrogenated vegetable oils (trans fats), and refined sugar.
Add in all the pesticides and hazardous fertilizers used in this chemical agriculture system, and you have the perfect formula for environmental destruction, disease, and premature death. Worse still, without GMO labeling, it can be difficult to determine exactly what it is that you're eating. This is the business model the GMA is protecting, and labeling GM foods will surely severely cripple it. This is why the GMA is willing to resort to everything, from illegal money-laundering schemes to irrational and wholly ludicrous lawsuits arguing for "the right" to violate disclosure laws. Their profits depend on keeping you in the dark about GM food.
The Great Boycott Is Here
The insanity has gone far enough. It's time to unite and fight back, which is why I join Ronnie Cummins in his encouragement to vote with your wallet and boycott every single product owned by members of the GMA, including natural and organic brands. You can start by using the list in the table below. The victories in Vermont and Oregon clearly show that you have the power to incite great change. In this case, you can help change the food system by taking decisive action with your food dollars.
"We flood their Facebook pages, tarnish their brand names. We pressure financial institutions, pension funds and mutual funds to divest from Monsanto and the other GMA companies. Our motto for Monsanto and GMA products must become: Don't buy them. Don't sell them. Don't grow them. And don't let your financial institution, university, church, labor union or pension fund invest in them," Cummins writes.9
"As soon as the GMA files a lawsuit against Vermont, the Organic Consumers Association, joined by a growing coalition of public interest groups, will launch a boycott and divestment campaign directed against all of the 300 GMA companies and their thousands of brand name products—including foods, beverages, seeds, home and garden supplies, pet food, herbicides and pesticides."
So far, between 2012 and 2014, Monsanto and the GMA have successfully blocked GMO labeling legislation in over 30 states, at a price tag of more than $100 million! These funds were received from the 300+ members of the GMA, which include chemical/pesticide, GE seed, and processed food industries. Together, these industries are working in a symbiotic fashion to grow, subsidize, and manufacture foods that have been clearly linked to growing obesity and chronic disease epidemics. As noted by Ronnie Cummins:
"Until now the GMA colossus has ruled, not only in Washington DC, but in all 50 states. But now that Vermont has passed a trigger-free GMO labeling law, and Oregon is poised to do the same in November, the balance of power has shifted. Monsanto, the GMA and their allies are in panic mode. Because they know that when companies are forced to label or remove GMOs, and also are forced to drop the fraudulent practice of labeling GE-tainted foods as 'natural' or 'all natural,' in one state, they will have to do it in every state. Just as they've been forced to do in Europe, where mandatory GMO labeling has been in effect since 1997."
Are You Supporting Those Who Have Repeatedly Taken a Stand Against Your Health and Right to Know?
To defeat the GMA lawsuit against Vermont, money must be raised for legal assistance to the state. We must also intensify any and all efforts to educate others and put pressure on the marketplace to quell the GMA's radical power grabs. To this end, please make a donation to the Organic Consumers Fund today.
Another way you can help is by refusing to invest in GMA member companies—even if indirectly through retirement and mutual funds. With enough pressure, we can pressure institutional investors like Fidelity, Vanguard, and State Street to dump the stocks they have in these companies. Moreover, we need to boycott ALL of the 300 companies who are still members of the GMA. Combined, they produce more than 6,000 brand name products, and all of these products are on the boycott list.
This may seem as a monstrously difficult task… but if we work together and individually make an effort, collectively we can do it. There are 400 million Americans, and each person makes multiple purchasing and investment decisions each and every day of the year. Every action you take from here on counts. Pro-organic consumer groups will also launch programs placing emphasis on boycotting "Traitor Brands," meaning natural and organic brands that are actually owned by members of the pro-GMO GMA. As noted by Cummins:
"Health-conscious and green-minded consumers often inadvertently support the GMA when they buy brands like Honest Tea, Kashi, Odwalla and others whose parent companies, all members of the GMA, have donated millions to defeat GMO labeling initiatives in California (Prop 37) and Washington State (I-522)."
While I cannot list all of them here, some of the 50 "natural" and/or organic Traitor Brands targeted by this boycott include those listed below. The reason for not focusing the boycott on the conventional parent companies is because pro-organic health-conscious consumers rarely buy Coca-Cola, Diet Pepsi, or sugary breakfast cereals to begin with. The only way to really put pressure on these parent companies is by avoiding the brands they market to organic consumers; the brands you actually typically buy.
"Let's be clear. Junk Food and beverage companies who are members of the GMA are gobbling up organic and 'natural' brands because they recognize the huge profit potential in the fast-growing organic and natural markets. They want our business. If we stop buying their brands, they know there's a good chance we'll find alternative brands. And we might never look back," Cummins writes.
Nine Additional Ways to Take Your Power Back
In addition to not buying Traitor Brand foods or beverages (even if they're certified organic), here are nine ways you can take power back from the corporate bullies that make up the Grocery Manufacturers Association:
- Stop buying all non-organic processed foods. Instead, build your diet around whole, unprocessed foods, especially raw fruits and vegetables, and healthy fats from coconut oil, avocadoes, organic pastured meat, dairy, and eggs, and raw nuts
- Buy most of your foods from your local farmer's market and/or organic farm
- Cook most or all your meals at home using whole, organic ingredients
- Frequent restaurants that serve organic, cooked-from-scratch, local food. Many restaurants, especially chain restaurants (Chipotlé is a rare exception), use processed foods made by GMA members for their meals
- Buy only heirloom, open-pollinated, and/or organic seeds for your garden. This includes both decorative plants and edibles
- Boycott all lawn and garden chemicals (fertilizers, pesticides, etc.) unless they are "OMRI Approved," which means they are allowed in organic production. If you use a lawn service, make sure they're using OMRI Approved products as well
- Become an avid label reader. If a GMA member company owns the product, no matter what it is, don't buy it
- Download the Buycott app for your smartphone, which allows you to scan products to find out if they're part of the boycott before you buy them
- Join the Organic Consumers Association's new campaign, "Buy Organic Brands That Support Your Right to Know"
Originally Published: Mercola