Sunday, August 17, 2014

2002: Biotech Family Secrets Measure 27

Biotech Family Secrets:

by Cameron Woodworth

Can a rag-tag team of volunteers with little money but lots of heart go up against a heavily financed opposition spending millions of dollars on misleading ads, and win? Stay tuned.

On November 5th, Oregon voters will decide whether to approve Measure 27, which would require genetically engineered foods distributed or sold in Oregon to be labeled.

Public opinion polls consistently show that 80 percent or more of Americans want genetically engineered foods to be labeled. In fact, a June, 2001 survey, reported by ABC News, showed that an astonishing 93 percent of Americans support labeling. So winning a labeling measure in a progressive Pacific Northwest state should be a no-brainer, right?

Not when you consider that the opposition — funded chiefly by Monsanto and other biotech companies — planned to spend $6 million to defeat the initiative, about 40 times more than Measure 27’s supporters. That would be a record amount spent on an Oregon initiative campaign, according to the Secretary of State’s office.
Measure 27 was brought to the ballot after more than 100,000 Oregonians signed petitions supporting labeling, easily surpassing the 67,000 signatures required. Measure 27 supporters are pushing the “right to know” issue — that people have the right to know what’s in our food. They’re also tapping into the current anti-corporate sentiment affecting the nation after the Enron and Worldcom scandals. They point out that Monsanto has a scandalous history itself, having produced Agent Orange, dioxin, PCBs and other viciously harmful products.

Opponents, meanwhile, are focusing on the issue of cost (the political action committee opposing Measure 27 calls itself The Coalition Against the Costly Labeling Law), claiming that labeling would be expensive for farmers, food producers and consumers. They also say that genetically engineered foods are good for the environment, and hang their hats on the Food and Drug Administration’s claims that GMOs are safe. And, they say the measure is an attempt by the organic industry to push an “extreme agenda” (ironic, considering the massive public support for labeling).

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