(Aug. 2) SALEM, Ore. — Oregon voters will get a chance this fall to determine whether products that contain genetically modified foods should be labeled.
In late July, Oregon election officials said that sponsors of a food labeling measure turned in more than enough signatures this summer to put a measure on the November ballot. If approved by voters, the measure would require all foods that are genetically engineered or that contain genetically modified ingredients say so on their labels.
Proponents of organic foods say it’s about time.
The organic industry has opposed GMOs on the basis that genetically engineered crops might spread un-checked in the wild and because long-term research has yet to be conducted into the safety of GMOs.
Bob Scowcroft, executive director of the Santa Cruz, Calif.-based Organic Farming Research Foundation, said he thought the measure is a good idea.
“I think that fundamentally the more information a consumer gets the better able they will be to make choices in their purchasing,” Scowcroft said.
Labeling of GMOs, as with irradiated foods, is controversial. Opponents say that labeling is an added cost and a burden to food producers and that it can needlessly make people fear products that are not harmful.
Consequently, some food industry groups in Oregon have hired a firm to help defeat the measure.
Pat McCormick, a lobbyist for the Grocery Manufacturers of America, is pushing hard for the defeat of the Oregon measure, which he said would be too costly for food producers.
NO MORAL VALUE
But proponents of labeling point out that labeling of products does not assign a moral value to a product, making this one “good” or that one “bad.”
“Look at the (American Heart Association’s) Heart Healthy logo,” Scowcroft said. “It’s just providing addi-tional information. The organic community was born and raised on labeling. We think information is helpful.”
Scowcroft said that consumers nationwide have been asking for labeling of genetically modified foods, but the federal government hasn’t mandated it.
“Now one state’s moving forward with it,” he said.
The measure was put forward by a group called Oregon Concerned Citizens for Safe Food, a Portland-based grass-roots organization co-headed by Kate Lord, who works for the Food Front Co-op in Portland.
To get put on the ballot, the measure needed about 67,000 valid signatures. It received about 84,000, according to the Oregon Concerned Citizens for Safe Food.