Oregon State Launches GMO Labeling Efforts

Oregon Right To Know is a non-partisan grassroots campaign to label foods in grocery stores produced using genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Right now, Oregon Right to Know is collecting signatures in order to place a measure requiring labeling of foods containing GMOs on the November ballot. 87, 213 valid signatures are needed before the July 3rd cutoff date.

"This legislation requires all manufacturers to properly label their foods when they contain genetically engineered ingredients. This will provide Oregonians with the knowledge needed to make informed decisions about the foods they purchase and consume, and to identify any potential health problems that may arise from consumption of such foods," wrote Michael Hansen, a leading national expert on food safety issues and senior scientist at Consumer Union (producer of Consumer Reports).

What does the Oregon Right To Know Initiative Do?

The Oregon Right To Know initiative is about transparency and empowering shoppers by allowing consumers to get the information they need to make their own decisions about the food they feed their families. It is not a ban on GMO food, it is a label initiative that would label processed foods that contain GMOs and whole foods, such as salmon, apples, and ears of corn, that have been genetically modified.

What are GMOs?

A GMO is a food that has been modified in a laboratory through engineering or biotechnology. Genes from bacteria, insects, unrelated plants, or animals are used to create an entirely new species of plant or animal.

The most commonly used form of GMO trait is to create plants that can be sprayed with large amounts of herbicides. Regular plants could not survive these sprays, but the GMO plants can. The USDA has reported that pesticide use on three major genetically engineered crops grown in the  US has increased by more than 527 million pounds from 1996 to 2011. Corn, soy, canola, sugar, and cottonseed oil are often genetically modified, and it has been estimated that 70% of the processed foods on supermarket shelves contain genetically modified ingredients.

Over 99% of GMOs are engineered to tolerate high doses of pesticides and/ or produce their own insecticide.

Who Else Labels GMOs?

There are currently 64 countries around the world that require the labeling of genetically modified foods, including Europe, Japan, Australia, Brazil, Russia, and China.

Connecticut, Maine, and Vermont have passed GMO labeling laws. In 2014 alone, 25 states have 67 pieces of legislation related to GMO labeling. Polls have shown that more than 90% of US citizens support GMO labeling. With such an overwhelming support for GMO labeling, why have only three states managed to pass labeling laws?

Who Opposes GMO Labeling?

Opponents to GMO labeling recently flooded Washington state with $22 million to oppose a labeling bill, and contributed more than $45 million to oppose a similar measure in California state. Contributing opponents included Monsanto, DuPont, BASF, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow, and the Grocery Manufacturers Association (among others). Interestingly enough, GMOs are created by six chemical companies - Monsanto, Dow, BASF, Bayer, Syngenta, and DuPont.

These companies pour tens of millions of dollars into fighting statewide initiatives for GMO labeling, trying to confuse consumers with claims that labeling will increase the price of foods.

Will Labeling Increase the Price of Food?

Consumer Union, which publishes Consumer Report studies, states there is no evidence that labeling GMOs will raise food prices. American food companies already label genetically engineered foods for foreign markets. When GMO labeling was introduced in Europe in 1997, it did not result in increased costs. Food companies update labels every 12 to 15 months and independent studies have shown that changing a label does not result in increased food costs.

Scott Faber, a former vice-president and lobbyist for the Grocery Manufacturers Association had this to say about label changes: "What I also learned is that adding a few words to a label has no impact on the price of making or selling food. That’s because food manufacturers are constantly changing their labels to highlight product innovations or to make health claims. Although it varies from product to product, the average “refresh” cycle for a food label is about a year. Adding the words “may contain genetically engineered ingredients” will add as much to the cost of making food as adding the words “can help reduce cholesterol” — nothing.”

What Can I Do?

Take Action! Support Oregon Right To Know by signing the petition to get the initiative on the November ballot. 87, 213 signatures are needed before July 3rd, so don't delay.

Sign the Petition: http://www.oregonrighttoknow.org/helplabel/

Melissa Zimmerman, Healthy Goods

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