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GMO Labeling Wack-a-Mole: Oregon and Colorado Consider Ballot Initiatives

July 8, 2014
GMO-labeling GLPAs many state legislatures have concluded their sessions, one might think the debate around GMO labeling legislation would fade. But now, new ballot initiatives are raising their heads.

Backers of a state-wide initiative in Oregon that would require labels for foods containing GMOs turned in more than 155,000 signatures last week, virtually guaranteeing a spot on the November ballot. Likewise in Colorado, a labeling proponent group has gathered at least 75,000 signatures, nearing the 86,105 signatures needed by the Aug. 4 deadline to get the measure on that state’s ballot in November.

Already, major newspapers are weighing in on the issue with both the Oregonian and the Greeley Colorado Tribune opposing such measures and shedding light on why similar initiatives failed in California in 2012 and in Washington in 2013; Oregon previously considered the issue in a labeling initiative in 2002, which also failed.

The Oregonian editorial board points out:
The federal Food and Drug Administration does not require such labeling because there is simply no scientific or nutritional basis to do so. This is a point FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg reiterated in March by explaining to a House subcommittee, ‘The fact that a food contains GE ingredients does not constitute a material change in the product. Corn is corn’….

“If advocates were really concerned about consumer confusion, they'd tell them to buy products that are organic or otherwise free of genetically engineered material. But the label-it movement is less concerned with preventing consumer confusion than it is in stigmatizing products of which activists don't approve. If consumers come away believing genetically engineered stuff is unhealthy, so much the better.”

If you don’t agree with the Oregonian’s view that stigmatizing biotech products is at the heart of the GMO labeling debate, read this fear-provoking Vermont article.

But what can be the downside of such labels? The Greeley Tribune points out:
A number of farmers and ranchers contend the measure would only contribute to the ongoing state-by-state patchwork of food-labeling and food-safety rules that add to confusion for consumers and cause disruptions for producers who market food to multiple states….Implementing this patchwork of mandatory labels will only create additional production costs, which will inevitably be passed on to consumers, some of whom already struggle with their grocery bills.”

In fact, a recent study out of Cornell University concludes that such labeling laws could increase food costs by $500 a year for the average family.

Want to learn more? Ag journalist Elton Robinson explains “Five Reasons Why We Fight Mandatory GMO Labeling” on the Farm Press Blog.