GE labeling initiative still alive despite early declarations of defeat and $20 million in opposition
November 25, 2014 (Portland, OR)—Center for Food Safety today celebrated with voters and organizers in Oregon the news that Measure 92, the genetically engineered (GE) food labeling initiative will head to a recount. Though opponents were vocal in calling the vote in their favor just a day after the election, the gap closed significantly, narrowing to less than a tenth of a percentage point and triggering a recount. It will likely be the closest statewide election in Oregon history.
“Thanks to the tireless efforts of on the ground organizers, and despite an aggressive and expensive opposition campaign, GE food labeling is still alive in Oregon. Regardless of what happens next, this is only the beginning,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety. “The power and tenaciousness of the Food Movement has been on full display here in Oregon.”
The incredibly narrow race comes despite a $20 million, deceptive campaign from the opposition led by big food and chemical companies. Monsanto donated nearly $5 million, DuPont Pioneer $4.5 million, Dow AgroSciences over a $1.1 million, with Pepsi and Coke, who use sugar and corn genetically engineered to be resistant to herbicides in their products, combining for over $3.5 million. The previous record for spending on an Oregon ballot initiative was $12 million for both sides combined.
In Colorado, where a similar ballot initiative was also up for a vote, the anti-labeling side spent over $16 million, hugely outspending the Yes on 105 campaign.In all, companies funding anti-labeling campaigns have spent over $100 million in just four states – California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado.
Center for Food Safety, a lead author of Measure 92, supported the Oregon campaign extensively, at the legal, advocacy, and grassroots level and as a member of the Steering Committee. CFS’s political arm, Center for Food Safety Action Fund, raised over $1 million to support Measure 92 and helped mobilize thousands of volunteers in Oregon and across the country. CFS previously worked with and provided legal and grassroots support to campaigns in Oregon to ban the planting of GE crops in two Oregon counties, and worked with the State Senate to ban GE canola in the Willamette Valley until 2019. CFS also co-authored GE food labeling ballot initiatives in California and Washington and has worked on the issue for over a decade.
Oregon would be the fourth U.S. state to require GE labeling. Connecticut and Maine each passed GE labeling laws this past spring, but both bills include a trigger clause requiring several other states to also pass labeling bills before the new laws can be implemented. Vermont was the first state to pass a no-strings-attached labeling law, set to go into effect in 2016.
In 2013, Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act (H.R. 1699/S. 809) to make GE food labeling mandatory across the country. Supported by 63 Representatives and 17 Senators, this common sense bill directs the Food and Drug Administration to use its authority to enact a federal, mandatory GE labeling policy that would guarantee all Americans the right to know. 64 countries around the world, including all European Union countries, Australia, Japan, Russian, and even China, already require GE foods to be labeled.
Ballot initiatives have a history of requiring multiple attempts before successful passage. In the case of marijuana legalization, states tried seven times, starting in 1972, before Colorado and Washington State successfully led passed initiatives in 2012.