'No on I-522' has drawn little money from individuals

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by JOHN LANGELER / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @jlangelerKING5

KING5.com

Posted on October 29, 2013 at 9:14 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 29 at 10:19 PM

We're just over a week away from Election Day, and the battles over one initiative in particular are getting fierce.

I-522 would require labeling on most 'genetically modified foods.' It's one of the most expensive statewide initiatives Washington has ever had.

On Monday, biotechnology giant Monsanto dumped another $540,000 to fight I-522.

The group opposing the initiative has now raised nearly $22 million. That's a record for the most raised by an initiative campaign in our state's history.

Food labeling supporters have raised about $6.8 million. But while the No on I-522 campaign has raised the most money, its donations are missing one component – local money.

Ray Wardenaar and his family farm 5,000 acres of Central Washington soil.

"From July 1 till December 31st each and every year," he said.

They grow all sorts of things, but mainly potatoes.

"It's very hard to get into the farming industry nowadays.  We're harvesting, instead of thousands of dollars, we're harvesting millions of dollars,” he said.

With all that money at stake, Wardenaar and his son can't stand the idea of Initiative 522. If passed, it would require most GMO foods to have labels.

"The labeling is already in effect.  There is labels for certified organic and non-GMO,” said Joel Wardenaar.

Multi-national corporations like Monsanto, Dow Chemical and Coca-Cola have contributed millions to the No on I-522 campaign. Overall, nearly $32 million has been raised to defeat the measure.

You'd think that with so much money devoted to the No on I-522 campaign, a lot of that money would come from Central and Eastern Washington.  You'd be wrong.  There've been just four individual contributions since the campaign began.

And Wardenaar is one of them.

In the week since we spoke, there's now five contributors, but it's still far below the other side.

"It really surprises me that more people haven't done it,” said Joel.

The question is why.  If there's such opposition locally, where's the local money?

Elizabeth Larter is with Yes on I-522.

"The people are on the side of the 'Yes' campaign.  It's just 5 out-of-state companies and a DC-based lobbying firm that are on the 'No' side," said Elizabeth Larter/Yes on I-522

The Wardenaars have their own idea.

"There's probably a lot of people in Eastern Washington that weren't even aware this is such a hot point on the west side."

But it is a hot point for Wardenaar. He doesn't see the problem with GMO crops, and even though he doesn't grow them, he might in the future.
  
For him, throwing $250 to a campaign was worth it, even if almost none of his colleagues have done the same.

A representative of the 'No on I-522' campaign tells KING 5 large companies are contributing to support farmers who "aren't known for being wealthy." The campaign said the real money issues involve the high costs the initiative would pass onto consumers.

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