GMO labeling closer to Oregon November ballot

Signatures submitted at state capitol on Wednesday

Oregon Right to Know submitted signatures to get a GMO labeling measure on the Oregon November ballot, July 2, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)
Oregon Right to Know submitted signatures to get a GMO labeling measure on the Oregon November ballot, July 2, 2014 (KOIN 6 News)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Supporters of a plan to have voters decide whether to label genetically modified foods turned in enough signatures to put the measure on the ballot.

“I’m not going to be surprised in November when we become the first state to make GMO labeling the law through a popular vote,” said Julia Degraw with Food and Water Watch.

The Oregon Right to Know campaign collected more than enough signatures in just six weeks, organizers said in a release.

The campaign leaders turned in the signatures at the state capitol and then held a brief news conference.

“There’s not enough information about whether or not these things are safe for our families. And if we don’t know, don’t we have a right to know whether or not we’re choosing to ingest these things and feed them to our kids?” said Degraw.

According to a fact sheet from the World Health Organization, “no effects of human health have been shown as a result of consumption of” GMOs.

Dr. Martin Donohoe, an internist from Portland, said she doesn’t buy that response.

“The data from open independent science, to me, is concerning enough that at the very least, we need to label our foods just so we can be informed consumers,” said Donohoe.

A source of concern among voters in Washington who turned down a similar initiative last year was cost labeling. Opponents of the Washington GMO campaign said it would increase the price of food.

Degraw said there is no truth to those claims.

However, the Consumers Union, which is the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, “disagrees with that assertion” that food prices would go up.

While opponents in Oregon have not begun to campaign yet, those for labeling expect a strong counterattack from those against it.

“It doesn’t matter how well funded an opposition is and how much they lie to the public or terrible ads they run – when you’ve got Oregonians talking to Oregonians saying this is how I’m voting and why, that’s how we win,” said Degraw.

Executive Director of Oregonians for Food & Shelter Scott Dahlman, who opposes the initiative, issued the following statement:

“This is a costly and misleading initiative that would hurt thousands of Oregon family farmers and small store owners, cost Oregon taxpayers millions of dollars and increase grocery bills for Oregon families by hundreds of dollars each year.

“This is all for a flawed food labeling system that would only exist in Oregon and is so badly-written that it wouldn’t even give consumers reliable information about which foods are actually made with GMOs and which aren’t.

“If the initiative qualifies for the ballot, we expect a broad-based coalition of Oregonians to come together to oppose this measure, and we believe Oregon voters will look into the facts for themselves and ultimately reject this proposal – just as they did in 2002 and just as Washington state voters did last year.”

The state is expected to take three weeks to verify the submitted signatures.

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