Increased transparency is one of the core arguments for the potential labeling of GMO foods. An alleged lack of transparency, on the other hand, is one of the reasons those organizations against labeling are now in some deep heat over a substantial amount of money funding to one side of the GMO labeling debate in Washington state.

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson has announced a lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association (GMA) for its lack of disclosure about where more than $7 million raised to fight against Washington’s I-522 ballot initiative was sourced.

Ferguson claims that the GMA “improperly established a special account that was used to collect money from the industry and used to oppose the initiative. Ferguson said the organization should have formed a separate political committee that would require increased disclosure.” He also claims this move was done “explicitly” in order to “shield members from scrutiny from opposing the initiative.”

As of right now, the GMA, which lists more than 300 companies on its website, is the largest donor to the anti-I-522 campaign.  From over $17 million raised, Ferguson asserts that the $7 million that purportedly violates campaign finance regulations is the “largest amount of money that [has] ever been concealed in Washington.”  In other words, this is a major violation.

As of Oct. 21, the I-522 anti-GMO labeling campaign has raised cumulatively over $17 million, including the $7 million in question from GMA. Those in favor of the I-522 GMO labeling initiative have raised just over $7 million.

GMA has since responded to the claims of campaign law violation in a statement: “GMA takes great care to understand and comply with all state election and campaign finance laws. GMA will review its actions in Washington state and relevant statutes and continue to cooperate with state authorities to fully resolve the issue as promptly as possible.”

The ballot comes to a vote in Washington on Nov. 5. Should the initiative pass, the measure would “require most raw agricultural commodities, processed foods, and seeds and seed stocks, if produced using genetic engineering as defined, to be labeled as genetically engineered when offered for retail sale.”

Considering that 64 countries around the globe require GMO labeling of some kind, and that a substantially large portion of our country’s food supply is GMO-based (93 percent of soybeans and 90 percent of corn are genetically engineered, for starters), a I-522 victory would mean a surge of awareness coming from one state at the epi-center of agriculture. For advocates of GMO labeling in the U.S., a win in Washington would be one giant leap in the right direction.

For more information on why I-522 matters to the rest of the U.S., read more right here.

Image Source: Stan Dalone/Flickr