Surprise! Pro-GMO Lawmakers Get Big Funds from Agribusiness Lobbies

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Surprise! Pro-GMO Lawmakers Get Big Funds from Agribusiness Lobbies

Reps who voted against mandatory GMO labeling received three times as much money from food and agriculture lobbies

Demonstrators against Monsanto and GMOs stage a protest in Portland, Maine in May 2014. (Photo: Corey Templeton/flickr/cc)

File this under unsurprising, but nefarious nonetheless.

Members of U.S. Congress who vote against mandatory labeling for genetically modified (GMO) products receive three times as much funding from the food and agriculture lobbies as their colleagues, according to new reporting from Open Secrets, a project of the Center for Responsive Politics.

The political finance watchdog group found that the supporters of the anti-labeling bill which passed the House of Representatives last Thursday collectively received $29.9 million from the agribusiness lobby and food and beverage industry during the 2014 election cycle.

At 230 Republicans and 45 Democrats, that averages roughly $108,900 per member to support HR 1599—officially titled the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 but known by its opponents as the DARK (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act. HR 1599 passed with 275 to 150 votes.

Meanwhile, co-sponsors of the anti-labeling bill "received six-figure dollar amounts from providers of agricultural services and products...during the 2014 election cycle. That put them high among the top 20 recipients of funds from the industry," Open Secrets reports.

Among those lawmakers are Reps. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), Frank Lucas (R-Okla.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Mike Conaway (R-Texas), and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), most of whom also sit on the House Agriculture Committee.

As Common Dreams reported last Thursday, HR1599 "was backed by the food industry, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and Monsanto Company, which have poured money into defeating GMO labeling initiatives."

Open Secrets continues:

Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and G.K. Butterfield (D-N.C.), two original sponsors of the legislation, were the top two current House members receiving the most money from the Grocery Manufacturers Association in 2014. The grocery manufacturers — who have spent $4.1 million lobbying on all issues so far this year, almost as much as they spent in all of 2014 — have lobbied on the bill more than any other organization, mentioning the measure on 14 lobbying reports this year.

After the Grocery Manufacturers Association, PepsiCo Inc ($2.5 million in overall lobbying this year) and Monsanto Co ($2.6 million) have mentioned the bill most frequently.

Food and environmental activists called for the Senate to vote down HR 1599 when it reaches the chamber.

"Passage of this bill is an attempt by Monsanto and its agribusiness cronies to crush the democratic decision-making of tens of millions of Americans. Corporate influence has won and the voice of the people has been ignored," Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety, said last week.

Added Ronnie Cummins, international director of the Organic Consumers Association, "It’s time to hold every member of Congress accountable. Either they stand with Monsanto and Big Food in support of the DARK Act, or they stand with the overwhelming majority of their constituents for truthful labeling and consumer choice."

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