Oregon Measure 92: The End of One Chapter in the GMO Labeling Saga

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Eight hundred and twelve. That was the number of votes by which Oregon’s Measure 92 lost back on November 24th. Too close to call on November 4th, remaining ballots were initially tallied and yielded 0.06% less, which is well under the 0.2% (3,000 votes) requiring a mandatory recount. This has been a tumultuous saga with enormous spending and work from grassroots supporters and corporate opposition.

Earlier in November optimism over the success of the campaign brimmed regardless of outcome. Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesperson for Oregon Right to Know, said in a press release:

That Measure 92 is headed to a mandatory recount is a huge victory in itself. Despite the Yes on Measure 92 campaign being massively outspent by $12 million by the out-of-state chemical companies and food conglomerates that oppose labeling, nearly 750,000 Oregonians saw through the No side’s false and cynical scare tactics and stood up for transparency and accountability in our food system.”

By the beginning of this month, things were not looking so hot for proponents as the partial hand recount by county had yielded a net gain of only two votes in favor of the ballot.

The final blow came yesterday, a day before the official tally was set close, when the Yes On 92 campaign conceded defeat. In their press release, still dubious of the vote-counting system, they laid down their legal weapons for the time being.

Given the razor-thin margin in this race, and the failure to count every valid ballot, we believe that Oregonians will never know for sure what the true outcome of this race was. That said, we intend to abide by the judge’s decision and will not pursue any further legal action."

Check out a summary of the bill’s attributes (including the exorbitant spending by Big Food and Big Ag) at Ballotpedia.

It’s a disappointment that the bill did not pass, but not a huge surprise considering the amount of oppositional advertising from GMO-dependent corporations. Rebecca Spector, West Coast Director at the Center for Food Safety, barely took a moment to lament, instead focusing on the optimism that the Yes On 92 Campaign has infused into the GMO fight, and the powerful groundswell that is emerging at the state level. Spector writes in Civil Eats:

To date, all ballot initiatives on GE labeling have truly come from the ground up. That’s amazing, but fighting some of the largest corporations in America–with their deep pockets–is an incredibly steep uphill battle. Aside from ballot initiatives, state-level legislation remains a politically viable and important way to promote labeling, allowing for ample opportunity for public hearings and any necessary legislative amendments.

The national movement is gaining momentum as well. While the DARK Act still looms for a potential vote in Congress, there is news of continued support for the U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio’s, (D-OR)., and Sen. Barbara Boxer’s, (D-CA) Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, which would require the FDA to clearly label GMOs on all products nationally. Jennifer Anderson of the Portland Tribune reports on a petition supporting the bill and demanding its passage signed by over 700 chefs nationwide. Quoting the petition:

As chefs, we know that choosing the right ingredients is an absolutely critical part of cooking. But when it comes to whether our ingredients contain genetically modified organisms, we're in the dark. It’s time for Congress to move us forward, not backward, when it comes to our right to know what’s in our food.”

As Americans, we are becoming more and more wary of the food that we eat. As Wellness Warriors we continue to fight for transparency in our food system, our right to know what we are putting into our bodies, and the health of our environment. Let’s keep up the good work.

PHOTO: via benjerry.com

Sources:

Read all articles by Damon Cory-Watson

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