Monsanto ponies up and Big Ag pulls ahead in GMO labeling horse race
If the GM food labeling battle is a horse race, Big Ag just upgraded to a genetically modified super horse. With wings.
Just a few weeks ago those in favor of GMO labeling in Washington state were in the lead, having raised $3.5 million, nearly four times as much as those opposed. But, as we noted at the time:
The relative weight of contributions, however, is likely to shift rapidly as the Washington initiative approaches its Nov. 5 moment of truth at the ballot box. Last year, the campaign against the California proposition spent $42 million in the six weeks before the vote.
Monsanto validated this prediction last week, dropping $4.6 million into the campaign. Then DuPont Pioneer added another $3.2 million. The groups campaigning to pass the labeling initiative are getting more “in-kind” contributions, that is, use of office space, equipment, and volunteer labor. But the total value of the in-kind donations — around $400,000 — are relatively small. The tides have turned.
It’s one thing to win the money race, and quite another to win at the ballot box. California’s labeling initiative failed by less than 3 percentage points (48.6 percent voting for labeling, 51.4 percent voting against) even though opponents outspent supporters of the initiative five to one. And people in Washington favor the idea of labeling — convincing them to change their minds, or stay home on election day would take a lot of work. The most recent poll [PDF] suggests that 43 percent of voters will “definitely” vote for the labeling law (compared to just 11 percent who said they’d definitely vote no), and 23 percent say they will “probably” vote yes (compared to 10 percent who said they would probably vote no).
So — even with its genetically modified Pegasus — Big Ag is still far behind. We should expect to see more large contributions in the future (Syngenta hasn’t ponied up a dime yet, and it’s the only big seed company conspicuously absent from the donor rolls). So far this looks like a repeat of the California labeling attempt: There, voters strongly supported labeling in the beginning, but that enthusiasm slowly melted under the deluge of advertising.