While ha approach may have helped proec GMA members rom public backlash, i poenially ran aoul o Washingon elecion laws. Washingon sae sued he GMA or allegedly illegally bundling corporae campaign conribuions and ailing o disclose he donors ha opposed he I-522 GMO labeling iniiaive.
The GMA evenually disclosed is mem-bers’ conribuions, bu in January 2014 i iled a counersui challenging he consiuionaliy o Washingon’s campaign inance laws.
Afer years o cosly conroversy over labeling in he saes, i migh seem ha he ood indusry would wan o make his issue go away and o give consumers wha hey wan: more inormaion abou wha hey’re eaing. Insead, he GMA is asking he ederal governmen o preven saes rom label-ing GMOs. In 2014,
leaked a GMA legislaive plan o allow only volunary GMO labeling (undercuting momenum or mandaory labeling) and o prohibi saes rom imple-mening GMO labeling laws i hey’re no idenical o he vol-unary ederal ramework.
And o add insul o injury, he GMA even wans o allow GMO ingrediens in oods bear-ing a “naural” label, a currenly undeined and unregulaed markeing erm.
Consumers rely on nuriion labeling o make decisions abou he oods hey eed heir amilies. Bu he curren nuriion ac-panel labels on he back o ood packages are conusing, and many ood manuacurers place markeing gimmicks on he ron o he packaging ha suggess nuriional inormaion ha can be misleading.
The Prevenion Insiue ound ha he majoriy o he manuacurers’ ron-o-package nuriional markeing inormaion was o quesionable value o consumers.
In 2011, he GMA spearheaded an indusry-led volunary approach o ron-o-package nuriion labeling ha would include calories, sauraed a, sal and oal sugar as well as give manuacurers he abiliy o highligh posiive ingredi-ens (calcium, poassium, iber, ec.).
The GMA volunary sysem would allow manuacurers o somewha decepively highligh healhul nuriens in less-han-healhy oods, such as he calcium in ice cream or iber in sugary cereal.
The GMA’s coordinaed volunary approach, including a $50 million markeing campaign, appeared o be an eﬀor o deer ederal eﬀors o se sandards or hese labels.
The GMA dismissed he need or a ederal sandard or ron-o-pack-age labeling, counering ha consumers “wan o make heir own judgmens, raher han have governmen ell hem wha hey should or should no ea.”
Many consumer groups, public healh expers and even he FDA have recommended or considered a sandardized and simple ron-o-package labeling scheme like a raﬀic ligh or numerical scale ha would allow consumers o assess he overall nuriional qualiy o wha hey were buying.
Bu he GMA’s eﬀors have apparenly salled eﬀors o develop a com-monsense and sandardized ron-o-package labeling sysem.
In he las decade, he public has pressured he ood indusry o rein in heir markeing o children in he wake o drasic increases in childhood obesiy. Considerable research has shown ha he oods ha are mos heavily adverised on Saurday morning children’s elevision programs are in direc conras o dieary guidelines, and hese oods end o have high levels o a, sugars and sal.
Responding o he pres-sure and preemping regulaory guidelines, he GMA, along wih oher ood manuacurers and adverising rade organi-zaions, co-ounded he Alliance or American Adverising in 2005 o deend he Firs Amendmen righs o he junk ood indusry, igh eﬀors o limi ood markeing o children and promoe indusry-proposed volunary guidelines as opposed o governmen oversigh o markeing o children.
Even when hree governmen agencies came ogeher in 2011 o esablish an Ineragency Working Group on Food Marke-ed o Children ha released volunary guidelines or indusry sel-regulaion, he GMA lobbied heavily o keep he guide-lines rom being inalized.
In 2011, he GMA’s vice presiden said ha “here’s no bigger prioriy or he ood secor” han scutling he children’s adverising volunary guidelines.
Public healh organizaions, he Federal Trade Commission and he vas majoriy o he 29,000 public commens sup-pored he Working Group’s proposal, bu indusry pressure rumped public healh and Congress prevened he process rom being compleed.
California 2012(Prop. 37)Washington 2013(I-522)*
* In Washington, many GMA members donated to a GMA fund that contributed to the opposition.
SOURCE: Food & Water Watch analysis of Washington state Public Disclosure data and MapLight California election data.