The Battle to Label GMOs Continues in Colorado and Oregon
Two huge votes are looming on the horizon for the movement to label GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms). Oregon and Colorado will both be voting on the issue during next month’s election.
“Genetically engineered” (GE) food is defined in Oregon’s Measure 92 as “food produced from organisms with genetic material changed through in vitro nucleic acid techniques and certain cell-fusing techniques” and exempts traditional plant-breeding techniques like hybridization. The vote on Measure 92 will require labeling, but will not apply to animal feed or food served in restaurants.
Colorado’s Proposition 105 would require “prepackaged, processed food or raw agricultural commodity that has been produced using genetic modification” to include the label: “Produced with genetic engineering.” If approved, the law would be put into effect by January 1, 2016. Most states have organizations fighting to get GMO labels on food. To get involved in your state, a list of organizations is provided here. (We have summarized the problems with GMOs in several previous articles.)
We have seen similar ballot measures in past years in California and Washington, both of which failed. Vermont passed a law by legislative vote, but is now facing lawsuits by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Association of Manufacturers, International Dairy Foods Association and the Snack Foods Association after signing required GMO labeling into law. Legislators of Maine and Connecticut have also passed GMO labeling laws, though they’re contingent upon further regional support.
Follow the Money
Similar to those battles fought and lost, we are seeing huge corporations, like Monsanto, DuPont Pioneer, Pepsi Co, Bayer CropScience, and Nestle USA started donating big bucks to labeling opposition groups in preparation of this November’s election. In Washington State, Monsanto contributed over $5 million, almost a quarter of the total amount spent by the GMO labeling opposition group. NO on 522 raised over $22 million compared to the $8 million raised by YES on 522.
On October 12, 2014, Food Democracy Now! sent out an announcement, reporting Monsanto, PepsiCo, and Kraft have donated $10.3 million in Colorado and Oregon to fight GMO labeling. Monsanto, alone, has spent over $6 million, almost $1 million more than they contributed in Washington State in 2013, and the money keeps coming.
The opposition continues to site studies by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the World Health Organization, stating there is no proof that GMOs have adverse health effects when eaten.
Why There is Opposition to GMOs
What these opponents seem to forget or ignore is that, even if GMOs are safe to eat (not proven in long-term studies), the pesticides used with GE crops are still dangerous to people and the planet. The farmers and laborers applying Roundup® (glyphosate), the world’s most commonly used weed killer, have to wear extensive protective gear as the symptoms of exposure to glyphosate include eye irritation, blurred vision, skin rashes, burning or itchy skin, nausea, sore throat and difficulty breathing, headache, lethargy, nose bleeds and dizziness.
The herbicide has also been shown by studies done by scientists at the University of Caen in France, to “induce reproductive problems” in humans. University of Pittsburgh biologist Rick Relyea found that the chemical caused an 86-percent decline in the total population of tadpoles. The use of glyphosate products, now carried by other companies such as Syngenta, has increased over the years as a result of increased production of GMO crops.
While opposition to GMO labeling in the US insists on arguing that GMOs are safe, why is it that countries across the globe have banned or require strict labeling of GE products? The European Union requires each individual GE crop to be tested for 3 months and then be approved by the European Commission before its approval. Each country then decides whether or not they will ban or permit said GMO to be harvested within their borders. Instead of labeling GMOs in Europe, thee same companies have opted to make the food products without using GMO crops.
Support for GMO Labels
Recently, the American Medical Association recommend mandatory pre-market safety testing with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for any modified food. Currently, GE crop manufacturers are only encouraged to consult with the FDA before bringing a GMO product into the market.
Oregon Governor John Kitzenhaber and his opponent Dennis Richardson support Measure 92 in Oregon. So does US. Representative Pete DiFazio of Oregon’s 4th Congressional District, and most of Oregon’s congressional delegation. In Colorado, neither of the major party gubernatorial candidates support Proposition 105.
Colorado Right to Know group explained one side of their position:
Under, Proposition 105 labeling genetically engineered foods would provide basic information to let Coloradans make more informed buying decisions, offering more choice and control over the transparency of their food purchasing decisions.
Without proper labeling and transparency it is difficult for doctors and pediatricians to determine where food allergies and sensitivities arise.
Because families and individuals are dealing with an increasing level of food allergies and sensitivities, we demand more information about the genetic makeup and source of our food.
Right to Know
This vote is about more than the safety issues looming in the shadows of GMOs. This vote is about the consumers’ right to know what they are putting in their bodies, on the plates of their children, and to help protect our environment.
The Oregon Mandatory Labeling of GMOs Initiative, Measure 92, is one of seven measures to appear on the ballot. The Colorado Mandatory Labeling of GMOs, Proposition 105, is on the 2014 statewide ballot. Residents of both states receive their ballots in the mail this week, and they will be counted November 4.
If you vote in Oregon, vote YES on Measure 92. If you vote in Colorado, vote YES on Proposition 105. Hold big business accountable and demand to exercise your right to know what is in the food you feed your family.
(Editor’s Note – In Oregon, NO on Measure 91, to legalize marijuana, because the commercialization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington has turned out to be entirely about the money and the right of businesses over the power of individuals and communities. Colorado’s Governor has called it “reckless.”)
If the measures pass in both Oregon and Colorado, these states will join Maine, Vermont and Connecticut, and increased pressure for labels will go on the food industry.