Thursday, July 24, 2014

Rick North: "Response" To The Oregonian Op-Ed - Measure 27 (2002)

October 25, 2002: In a recent editorial, the Oregonian said that Measure 27 would create increased costs for consumers, echoing the statements of the opposition.

However, when it comes to labeling genetically engineered foods, there is simply no evidence that costs would increase significantly, if at all.

Over 25 nations, comprising nearly half the world’s population, have required labeling of genetically engineered foods. In every country, the result was either zero or minimal price increases. The opposition cites a “study” that estimates an increase of $550 per year for a four-person family, or $137 per person per year.

The Oregonian accepted this figure at face value, even though the study was funded completely by the opposition. This is reminiscent of studies paid for by the tobacco industry indicating that cigarette smoking didn’t cause cancer or heart disease.

By contrast, an independent study by Professor William Jaeger, an economist and agricultural resource policy specialist at Oregon State, estimated that increased costs in Oregon would be only $3 - $10 per person per year.

Independent studies for four other nations estimated similar costs – none were even close to the $137 figure. In reviewing the opposition’s study, Jaeger concluded that it “does not represent a detailed, thorough, or reliable economic analysis.” The Department of Administrative Services estimated the annual cost to regulate the labeling program at $11.3 million.

However, this includes costs for restaurants, schools, hospitals, and other establishments that serve or distribute food ready-to-eat. Without restaurants, schools, etc., the annual costs are $2.4 million, only 71 cents per person per year.

The initiative refers only to labeling food already having display panels for bulk, wholesale, or retail sale, and does not mention food served ready-to-eat.

Measure 27 advocates have stated in their websites and literature that these foods are not included, although the opposition has argued otherwise. Again, the Oregonian has simply accepted the opposition’s viewpoint.

Because there has been controversy over the initiative’s wording on this point, it’s helpful to know what would happen if the measure passes. If there are questions about interpretation of anystatutory initiative, legislative committees typically gather input from all sides, clarify any issues,and submit an amended law.

Since neither advocates nor opponents want labeling for restaurants,schools and other ready-to-eat food establishments, there is no disagreement and they obviously wouldn't be covered.And to clear up one other misconception, grocery clerks wouldn’t label genetically engineered food packaging, just as they don’t label for calories or vitamins. It’s done by the processor.

There are serious health, environmental, dietary and religious questions about genetically engineered foods. This is why the Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Union of Concerned Scientists and Oregon League of Conservation Voters, among many others, have endorsed Measure 27.

We have a right to know what is in our food. Consumers should be able to make an informed choice about what they eat, and, like the bottle bill, Oregon can lead the way. Please vote yes on Measure 27.

Rick North
Vote Yes on 27 Committee

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