Election Special: Measure 92, GMO Labeling
By Andy Combs, Staff Writer
This November, Measure 92, would require food manufacturers and retailers to label GMO’s, genetically modified organisms in foods. It would give Oregon voters the chance to become among the first to successfully push through labeling. Currently some twenty five states have proposals, measures and bills on the books and the movement appears to be gaining momentum.
If voted into action, the measure would take effect on January 2016 when enforcement would begin in the labeling of packages, shelves, and bins that contain food defined as food produced form organisms with genetic material changed through in vitro nucleic acid techniques and certain cell-fusing techniques. Food served in restaurants, animal feed, and plants bred with traditional techniques are all exempt from the measure.
Those in opposition such as the NAACP of Corvallis/Albany claim that Measure 92 will increase food costs for low-income families. Others say the labeling law in contention is poorly written, would require too much money and administrative resources, and that the labeling laws themselves are misleading and would not fully inform consumers of Genetically Engeineered content. “About two- thirds of foods that Oregonians consume would be exempt from Measure 92’s labeling requirements, ” writes OSU plant scientist, Dr. Steven H. Strauss in the 2014 Voter’s Pamphlet.
Outcries from local farmers, ranchers, and Right to Know activists have countered the opposing side. Citing the fact that in addition to Canada, the United States is one of the few major countries in the world that does not require GMO labeling, proponents websites such as “labelgmos.org”, believe it is analogous to nutrition fact labeling: “We didn’t use to label foods with calorie or nutritional value information, but we do now and most consumers use this information every day.”
Oregon is rapidly becoming a hub of organic farming and sustainable practices and many proponents of measure 91 believe that not labeling GMO’s could damage Oregon’s agricultural economy. Ranked 3rd in organic farm- gate sales by the USDA, the state’s $233 million a year organic food industry exists in an economic climate where “foods identified as non-genetically engineered are the fastest growing segment of agriculture”, as is stated in the measure’s Section 1.14.
FOLLOW THE MONEY:
The Associated Press reported last Tuesday that close to 3,000 small contributions to the pro-labeling campaign have been reported as well as larger donations such as the Center for Food Safety in Portland, who contributed $1.1 million and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soap who provided $900,000. However, these figures amount only to half of the funding currently propelling the anti- labeling campaign, who’ve accepted large donations from corporations and biotech companies such as Monsanto, PepsiCo Inc and Kraft Foods. Both sides have also reported large expenditures on the campaign so far. At this point however, only Oregon voters can decide if GMO labels will be a new requirement.