Oregon GMO Labeling Supporters Submit Signatures as Opponents Call Initiative ‘Costly,’ ‘Misleading’July 3rd, 2014
by Yuxing Zheng
SALEM — GMO labeling supporters and opponents began trading barbs Wednesday even before supporters submitted an estimated 155,661 signatures in an attempt to qualify the initiative for the November ballot.
The attacks offered a preview of each side’s talking points in what many political observers expect could be the most expensive initiative campaign in Oregon history.
Shortly after 11 a.m., about 50 Oregon GMO Right to Know supporters stood on the Capitol steps beside 10 boxes of petition sheets they planned to submit. Campaign organizers struck a confident tone and said Oregonians have a right to know the contents of their food. They also pledged to run a grass-roots campaign to counter the millions of dollars they expect food and biotechnology companies to donate to the opposition campaign.
“We’re going to have this monstrous huge field effort,” initiative co-sponsor Scott Bates said. “Time and time again, that’s how you win when you’re vastly outspent.”
Minutes earlier, opponents had sent out a press release blasting the initiative as flawed and poorly written.
“This is a costly and misleading initiative that would hurt thousands of Oregon family farmers and small store owners, cost Oregon taxpayers millions of dollars and increase grocery bills for Oregon families by hundreds of dollars each year,” Scott Dahlman, executive director of Oregonians for Food & Shelter, said in a press release. “This is all for a flawed food labeling system that would only exist in Oregon and is so badly written that it wouldn’t even give consumers reliable information.
The arguments from both sides parallel ones heard in California and Washington, where voters in 2012 and 2013, respectively, rejected similar labeling initiatives.
Supporters, all the savvier from those defeats, crafted Oregon’s initiative differently to anticipate some of the attacks, said Sandeep Kaushik, a campaign spokesman. For instance, opponents of the Washington measure claimed it would require the labeling of dog food, so the Oregon measure specifies that labeling applies only to food for human consumption, he said.
Supporters also sought to counter arguments made by opponents.
“Don’t be fooled by claims that this will increase the cost of food or increase your tax bill,” said Martin Donohoe, a physician involved with Physicians for Social Responsibility. “Companies are always changing the labels on their products based on additions of things, like vitamins or calories. This is not going to cost anything significant at the supermarket or in your taxes, but it will give you that fundamental right to know.”
Officials with the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office must now verify that at least 87,213 valid signatures were submitted for the measure to appear on the November ballot.