Across various states in Election 2014, there are several ballot measures that will have a direct and substantial impact on agriculture if passed, including GMO production bans and labeling initiatives. You can click here or on the “Ballot Box 2014” label below for all related articles on these ballot measures. Don’t see a ballot proposal? Send me an email and let me know!
From the state that brought you county-wide bans on cultivating GMOs back in May, comes another ballot measure aimed at conventional farmers. Once again, Oregon voters will go to the polls and determine what should be done with genetically modified foods. This time, the issue is whether genetically modified foods should be labeled.
The summary on the ballot reads as follows:
Summary: Current law does not require labeling of “genetically engineered” food. Measure requires retailers of genetically-engineered raw food to include “Genetically Engineered” on packages, display bins, or shelves; suppliers must label shipping containers. Requires manufacturers of packaged food produced entirely or partially by genetic engineering to include “Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” on packages. Defines genetically engineered” food as food produced from organisms with genetic material changed through in vitro nucleic acid techniques and certain cell-fusing techniques; exempts traditional plant-breeding techniques like hybridization. Does not apply to animal feed or food served in restaurants. Directs agencies to implement law. Permits state, injured citizen to sue manufacturer, retailer for knowing/intentional violation; attorney fees for prevailing citizen. Other provisions.
You can find the text of the actual legislation here.
Reading through the legislation, I wasn’t surprised to see that organic farming was listed as a reason the state needs to requiring labeling. I find it funny that the label advocates are constantly telling us that a labeling requirement is simply about our “right to know.” Doesn’t seem to be the case when you’re attempting to hamper one type of production method in favor of another. I am told that Oregon has large areas where “sustainability” is very trendy, which includes organic farming. I do find it interesting that in states dominated by conventional farmers, those farmers are not constantly proposing ballot measures to oppress and hurt farmers that use other production methods. However, in a state where organic production is dominating and those production methods are trendy, it’s a very different story.
|Oregon voters: Listen up!|
But I digress (those are topics for another day).
Even a cursory reading of the ballot proposal will enlighten voters to the glaring problems it creates. In fact, the Oregon Citizens’ Initiative Review Panel came out against the measure, indicating it would increase costs to consumers. It also found that the labeling requirements were confusing and unhelpful. In the end, consumers won’t be able to get very much information from the labels and the labels won’t necessarily be very accurate.
The actual ballot language includes some fear-mongering, such as suggesting GMOs have increased the overall use of herbicides. It also suggests that there are health risks associated with consuming GMOs (which there are not). Oh, and don’t worry – enforcement isn’t just left to the state government! Any “injured” citizen can also drag you to court for violation of the measure.
For the sake of family farmers in Oregon, I sincerely hope that voters will turn down this measure, just like they should have done in Jackson County with the ban on cultivating GMOs. Real farmers, real families, real people will be harmed by this measure. It will also go farther in creating a bunch of random and differing state labeling laws that will make it impossible for farmers to follow, especially if they sell the same products in more than one state. Those new labels will also raise food prices for consumers, with low income families suffering the most.
Now, not all campaign advertisements are created equal, of course, but these from the No on Measure 92 folks are very nicely done and definitely sum up the reasons to vote against this ballot measure nicely. I’ve included them here.