Wash. AG says food group to disclose I-522 donors

SEATTLE — A food industry group that has spent millions of dollars opposing a food labeling initiative in Washington state has agreed to disclose its contributors, Washington state’s attorney general said Friday.

Attorney General Bob Ferguson said the agreement avoids the need to seek court intervention. Earlier this week, Ferguson filed a lawsuit against the Grocery Manufacturers Association, saying the group violated state campaign finance laws for how it collected and spent more than $7 million.

“The people of Washington demand transparency in elections,” Ferguson said in a statement. “I’m pleased the GMA board recognized their responsibility to disclose the names of companies who contributed to opposing Initiative 522, and the amount of their contributions.”

The association and other parts of the food industry have been working to defeat Initiative 522 that would require labeling on genetically modified foods.

Ferguson said the association improperly established a special account that was used to collect money from the industry while shielding contributors from scrutiny. He says the group has now agreed to file reports with the state’s Public Disclosure Commission.

Voters across Washington are starting to receive the ballots that will decide the fate of I-522 in what has shaped up to be one of the costliest initiative fights ever in Washington state.

Supporters say consumers have a right to know whether foods they buy contain genetically engineered ingredients and contend that GE label is no different from other food labels. Opponents say it would cost farmers and food processors and that such a label implies the food is somehow less safe.

In California last year, voters narrowly rejected a GMO-labeling measure after opponents mounted a $46 million defense.

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Follow AP Writer Mike Baker on Twitter: https://twitter.com/MikeBakerAP

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