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Originally published Monday, October 28, 2013 at 7:58 PM

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Foes of food-labeling Initiative 522 set funding record

The campaign against food-labeling Initiative 522 has now raised more than any other initiative campaign in Washington state history.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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First, it smashed the record for fundraising by a campaign opposing a statewide ballot measure.

Now, the No on I-522 Committee holds the title for most money raised by any initiative campaign in Washington state history, period.

Bankrolled by out-of-state biochemical giants and food-industry heavyweights, the campaign to defeat food-labeling Initiative 522 broke the $21.4 million mark in total contributions on Saturday, the latest campaign-finance records show.

The state’s old record — set in 2011 by Costco-backed supporters of the liquor privatizing Initiative 1183 — had been $20.1 million.

If a food sold in retail stores in Washington state contains genetically engineered ingredients, I-522 would require that it be disclosed with labels on the fronts of packages.

The No on 522 campaign broke the previous fundraising record with last week’s contributions of $3.8 million from the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) political-action committee and $460,000 from DuPont Pioneer.

With $11 million in cash contributions to date, the GMA remains the No campaign’s top donor. The food-industry group — financed by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, General Mills, NestleUSA and ConAgra Foods, among others — only revealed its funders earlier this month after Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson sued it for campaign disclosure violations.

Other top donors to the No campaign include biochemical companies Monsanto ($4.8 million), DuPont Pioneer ($3.9 million), Bayer Cropscience and Dow Agrosciences ($592,000 each).

Meantime, the Yes on I-522 Committee has raised $6.3 million so far, including $1.7 million from a California-based organic soap maker, Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, as well as funding from organic retail groups and thousands of small individual donations.

The $27.7 million in contributions raised by both sides as of Monday makes the I-522 race second all-time in Washington for collective money raised in an initiative campaign. The 2011 liquor-privatizing measure still holds the record at $32.5 million.

Opponents say I-522 would unfairly impose labels on otherwise safe foods and lead to higher grocery costs, while supporters contend consumers have a right to know what’s in their food.

The record campaign money has financed a barrage of TV spots and other ads against I-522 over the past month, helping the No camp to whittle down a huge early advantage among voters favoring the measure. Recent polling suggests the race is now a toss-up.

Heading into the final week before Election Day on Nov. 5, the No camp still has $7.9 million available to spend, compared with about $900,000 on hand for the Yes side, state Public Disclosure Commission records show.

Lewis Kamb: or 206-464-2932. Twitter: @lewiskamb

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