Oregon consumers have the right to know whether or not the food they purchase was produced using genetic engineering. Genetic engineering of plants and animals often causes unintended consequences. Manipulating genes and inserting them into organisms is an imprecise process. The results are not always predictable or controllable, and they can lead to adverse health or environmental consequences.
Fifty countries including the European Union and Japan have laws mandating that genetically engineered foods be labeled, but the United States does not have such a requirement. Public opinion polls indicate that over 90 percent of American voters support the labeling of genetically engineered foods.
The Oregon Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food initiative follows in the footsteps of the current California initiative ( http://www.labelgmos.org ) and is joined by similar legislation efforts currently underway in Vermont and Connecticut. All four, including ours here in Oregon strive to address the lack of GMO labeling and consumer knowledge by requiring that:
- Processed foods that contain GMO derived ingredients be labeled as containing genetically engineered food
- Foods about to come on the market that are wholly themselves a genetically modified organism (Corn-on-the-cobb, Salmon) be clearly labled as genetically engineered
- The labeling, advertising and marketing of genetically engineered foods using terms such as “natural,” “naturally made,” “naturally grown,” or “all natural” is misleading to consumers and therefor GMO products cannot be labeled as such.
The initial language of the proposed measure has been submitted to the state elections office with the initial sponsorship signatures. There are several formal process steps that the state now goes through in verifying the signatures and then drafting the official ballot language for title and summary of the measure. If the measure proceeds though the process smoothly, there will be a short, but hopefully still feasible window of time dring the month of June when we will be out collecting the approximately 87,000 signatures necessary to get the measure on the ballot for November's general election.
Q: Shouldn't the FDA be responsible for this and require labeling nationwide?
Yes! The FDA should be responsible for this. However, federal labeling legislation has been before Congress since 1999 and gone nowhere even though there has been clear support from the american people that they want it, and a global movement to require it. In March, a petition was delivered to the FDA with a million (1,000,000!) signatures requesting GMO labeling. As well, 55 members of Congress signed a letter to the FDA demanding action. Even with these recent efforts, the FDA is showing no signs that it intends to take action.
Q: What happens if you run out of time and can't collect the necessary signatures?
We'll admit that we got a late start on this. When we learned that Oregon only allows citizens to submit initiative petitions in even numbered years, we had a gut-check about doing this, but decided that we just couldn't stomach the idea of waiting until to 2014 to "do something". So while we have submitted the intiative paperwork, and we realize that it might not be a reality for it to happen, this is still an issue that needs our attention. If time prevents us from making the November ballot, we will convert the energy into a campaign requesting the Oregon legislature take action to pass a GMO labeling bill.
Q: how can I help?
Sign up on this site and volunteer to gather signatures. When the time comes (June) to collect the necessary signatures, we'll need any and every volunteer we can get to help.