Costly battle over GMO labeling too close to call

'Yes' vote could make Ore. one of the first states to approve a labeling measure in an election

Proponents and opponents are going all out to convince voters to either vote "yes or "no" on Measure 92 come November. (KOIN 6)
Proponents and opponents are going all out to convince voters to either vote "yes or "no" on Measure 92 come November. (KOIN 6)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN 6) — Measure 92, which requires the labeling of raw and packaged foods produced entirely or partially by genetic engineering, is too close to call after the first results were released Tuesday evening.

A “Yes” vote on the GMO measure would mean the labeling of genetically modified foods would take effect January 2016 and would apply to retailers, suppliers and manufactures. The measure would not apply to animal feed or food served in restaurants.

As one of the hot topics on the ballot, the GMO labeling measure is the most expensive in Oregon history.

Opponents, including some of the world’s largest food producers, raised about $20 million to prevent the labels from appearing on Oregon grocery shelves. Though the labels are not a warning, they fear the words will spook consumers.

The campaign to pass Measure 92 surpassed $7.5 million in donations.

The anti-labeling campaign spent about $45.6 million in California, compared with $8.7 million spent by supporters. In Washington state, opponents spent $33.3 million, compared with $9.8 million by the pro-labeling groups.

Colorado voters also tackled the issue Tuesday – they ultimately failed to pass the measure, and the Vermont Legislature approved a labeling bill that’s set to take effect in 2016. Scores of countries have GMO labeling laws, including the entire European Union.

Over the past two years, proposals to require GMO labeling have failed in neighboring California and Washington. Oregon voters also have defeated a labeling measure, but that was in 2002, when the issue was less on the public radar.

Earlier this year, voters in two rural Oregon counties approved bans on genetically engineered crops, showing the issue had gained traction outside liberal Portland.

The votes in Jackson and Josephine counties followed the discovery of a patch of GMO wheat in eastern Oregon, a finding that led Japan and South Korea to temporarily suspend imports of the crop.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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