Opponents of Ballot Measure 92, which would require the labeling of food sold in Oregon that contains genetically modified organisms, want to make the measure about the unproven health effects of eating GMOs. It's not.
Measure 92 is about consumers having enough information about the food they buy to decide whether to purchase it. That's a reasonable request.
The processed food industry is understandably opposed to enacting a new requirement that foods be labeled if they contain GMO ingredients. Given that the vast majority of corn, soybeans and canola grown in this country have been genetically modified, that's a lot of food. Think of how many foods contain corn syrup, soy products and canola oil.
Not surprisingly, the opposition is largely coming from out-of-state food companies, along with out-of-state money. Opponents managed to defeat labeling initiatives in California and Washington, hugely outspending supporters, although the margin of defeat in California was only 2 percent, suggesting that Oregon's measure has a solid shot at passing.
Opponents say adverse health effects from ingesting GMO food have not been proven. That's true; in fact, a team of Italian scientists came up with nearly 1,800 studies of GMO foods (the majority of them independent of any GMO-related funding source) done between 2002 and 2012 and not one of them found any evidence of negative health effects from consuming GMO's.
Tthough that may be true, that's not the point with this measure. There is doubt among many people, and fear that genetic engineering may have consequences that we do not yet recognize. Enough doubt exists that sizable numbers of consumers want to know what foods to avoid. That's not unreasonable.
Opponents say labeling would be costly, raising the price of food. But European countries that require labeling have not seen significant cost increases. And a new study released Wednesday by the respected research firm ECONorthwest concluded Oregon's labeling measure would result in a median increase to the consumer of $2.30 per year.
Measure 92 would not apply to animal feed, to meat or dairy products from animals fed GMO feed, or to restaurant meals, because those fall under different regulations and are not subject to labeling requirements.
Ballot Measure 92 appears to be a carefully worded initiative that simply requires food manufacturers to provide consumers basic information about what's in their products. We recommend a yes vote.
Originally Published: Mail Tribune