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GMOs: Should Corporations Curb Their Political Power in Local Elections?

Monday, Nov. 4, 2013

Tomorrow, Washington state residents will vote on Initiative 522, a law that would require genetically modified foods sold in stores to be labeled “clearly and conspicuously.” While the debate on labeling is as contentious ever, Initiative 522 made the news for another reason: for raising more money than any other initiative campaign in Washington state history. Proponents of labeling have raised a respectable $8.4 million, the majority of which coming from small donations and advocacy groups. But the record setting belongs to the campaign against 522. Backed by out-of-state biochemical and food-industry corporations, the No on I-522 Committee has raised over $22 million. The law on this is clear. In the Citizens United case in 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are entitled to make unlimited contributions to political campaign ads and other political tools. The question remains, are Monsanto, Coca-Cola, and Kellogg—contributors to No on I-522—unfairly influencing the political process? Even if legally permissible, should they hold back on their financing of Initiative 522 ads?

  Patrick: With 20 other states considering similar initiatives, and growing support from Congress at the Federal level, Initiative 522 cannot be viewed in isolation. It is certainly troubling that an out-state corporation can potentially sway a local or state level election (we’ll find out for sure Tuesday), but we have to recognize that these corporations are very much stakeholders in this decision. Initiative 522 may very well set the precedent for how this matter is decided on a national level: a legitimate concern of these corporations. Provided that corporations stay within the bounds of campaigning regulations, I don’t see it reasonable to compel corporations to “hold back” their legal powers to influence political decisions. Whether unlimited campaign contributions should be a right granted to corporations is another story.

Washington could be the first state to require labels on GMOs. Here are the stakes. (Washington Post)

Foes of food-labeling Initiative 522 set funding record (Seattle Times)

A Framework for Thinking Ethically (Markkula Center for Applied Ethics)



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