Big Money Shapes Gmo Food Labeling Fight In Washington State

The opening of a new KFC in Ibadan, Nigeria. HIDE CAPTION Fast Food Continent – Burger King Fast Food Continent U.S. fast food brands are increasingly opening branches across Africa KFC has outlets in 14 African countries, with over 700 KFCs in South Africa Pizza chain Domino’s plans three more African branches by the end of this year African branches often introduce new dishes to cater to local tastes (CNN) — Sub-Saharan Africa’s economic renaissance is fueling an investment drive by fast food joints looking to tap the continent’s growing middle class. The likes of Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Domino’s pizza are opening up in African growth markets from Nigeria to Angola to give consumers a taste of U.S. cuisine. Elias Schulze, managing partner of The Africa Group , a boutique Africa-focused investment consultancy, said U.S. takeout stores are rapidly becoming “aspirational brands” for cosmopolitan Africans with disposable income. He said: “An upwardly mobile, confident, Western-leaning and young consumer class bodes well for an American burger boom.” And the battle for the African market is well underway. This year, Yum! Brands — owner of KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut — is expanding into Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe. An upwardly mobile, confident, Western-leaning and young consumer class bodes well for an American burger boom. Elias Schulze, The Africa Group The Louisville-based restaurant giant already has outlets in 14 African countries , with more than 700 KFCs in South Africa and plans to open a further 45 stores in 2013. Read this: South Africans thirsty for craft beer And with growing political and economic stability, Western fast food brands are approaching the region with a renewed sense of optimism, according to Schulze. He said KFC is an established brand on the continent today, adding: “My general sense is that markets beyond South Africa in sub-Saharan Africa are in the investing phase given their level of infancy and may not have reached a payback point quite yet.” And more big players are beginning to follow suit.

The Washington state effort is part of an ongoing fight by those opposed to genetically engineered crops to push for labeling. “In 2013 alone there have been 26 states that have introduced labeling legislation,” says Katey Parker with the Just Label It coalition, a pro-labeling group based in Washington, D.C. According to The Seattle Times, Washington’s Yes on 522 campaign so far has raised $4.8 million. Squaring off on the other side is a coalition of food manufacturers and seed producers that thus far has raised a war chest of $17.2 million. That’s a state record. The top five contributors were the Grocery Manufacturers Association, Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Dow AgroSciences and Bayer CropScience, according to the No on 522 Coalition. Those opposed to labeling say it will falsely mislead consumers into thinking that products that contain genetically engineered ingredients are “somehow different, unsafe or unhealthy,” said Brian Kennedy of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a food industry group based in Washington, D.C. “I-522 is a complex, costly and misleading initiative that will raise grocery costs for Washington state consumers at a time when few can afford it,” he said. Genetically engineered crops have a gene from another plant inserted into them to give them some ability they didn’t have before. There are two common genetic modifications. One is for herbicide tolerance: Plants are given a gene that protects them from harm when a farmer sprays them with herbicides to kill weeds. The other is a gene from a soil bacteria called Bacillus thuringiensis that allows plants to produce their own insecticide. In the United States a huge proportion of commodity crops are genetically engineered: 97% of the nation’s sugar beets, 93% of the soybeans, 90% of the cotton and 90% of the feed corn, according to the 2013 figures from the U.S.

Washington state battles over genetically modified food

GMO protest

Bronners Magic Soaps and natural food companies have raised $4.7 million. On Nov. 5, voters will decide whether to approve I-522, which requires genetically engineered foods offered for retail sale to be labeled as such. Products would have to carry a label on the front of the package disclosing that they contain GE ingredients. Supporters say consumers have a right to know whether foods they buy contain such ingredients and a GE label is no different from other food labels. Opponents say it would cost farmers and food processors, and such a label implies the food is somehow less safe. Genetically modified foods have been controversial for years, but the issue has gained renewed attention as states consider bills mandating labels for foods that contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. This year, we just saw an explosion with 95 bills in 28 states, said Doug Farquhar, program director for environmental health at the National Conference of State Legislatures. Connecticut passed a GMO-labeling law, but its dependent on four other states passing similar legislation. In California last year, voters narrowly rejected a GMO-labeling measure after opponents mounted a $46 million defense. Proponents raised $9.2 million, according to MapLight, a Berkeley-based organization that examines the influence of money in politics. Many of the top donors in that California fight are now writing hefty checks to influence the Washington ballot measure. The money raised so far by both sides, about $21.9 million, is the second highest amount for a state ballot measure, according to records kept by the Washington Public Disclosure Commission. It trails money raised for and against a 2011 measure to privatize liquor sales. Nearly all of the opposition money against I-522 has come from six out-of-state contributors that also were among the top donors against Californias measure.

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