Morning Fizz: A Direct Challenge

Josh Feit at Publicola reports:

1. A recent No on I-522 TV ad cites a study by the Washington Research Council, saying “Initiative 522 would cost Washington farmers, food producers and consumers millions.”

I-522 is the measure on November’s ballot that would require the industry to label genetically modified food, or GMOs

It turns out the study, as well as another study by the Northbridge Environmental Management Consultants cited by the Washington Research Council, were both funded by the No on I-522 campaign. (The No campaign itself, which has raised $11 million, is being funded almost exclusively by six food and chemical corporations including Monsanto, Dow, Dupont, Bayer, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association.)

According to the the Public Disclosure Commission, the No on I-522 campaign spent $12,500 on each research study, and still owes $37,500 to the Washington Research Council and $3,805.50 to Northbridge for the research.

Dana Bieber, the No campaign rep, said the fact that they funded the studies does not invalidate their findings. She said the ‘No’ campaign simply requested a study on how much it would cost consumers if I-522 was passed, and the Washington Research Council carried it out from there. The study concludes—under the assumption that food producers would use non–genetically engineered ingredients to avoid GMO labels—that prices would go up for consumers. The assumption, she said, is based on what happened to countries in Europe after they passed GMO labeling laws.

Asked about the ‘Yes’ side’s argument that prices have not gone up for European consumers following their labeling laws, Bieber said she has seen “not one study” showing that.

Elizabeth Larter, spokesperson for the Yes campaign, said the No side lacks independent or real-world evidence that prices will go up for consumers and pointed to some independent studies, including one from Emory University for California’s (failed) GMO labeling initiative Prop 37, concluding that labeling would not bring significant cost increases to consumers.

Footnote: The two sides are battling it out in court over a campaign finance lawsuit filed by supporters of I-522 arguing that the ‘No’ campaign is concealing donors.