Anti-GMO activists hope floodgates will open if Oregon passes labeling law

Is this the year that voters will finally insist on knowing which supermarket foods contain genetically modified organisms? Activists in Oregon say the momentum is on their side for a GMO labeling initiative on the November ballot.

“The electorate in Oregon has a greater awareness of this issue than in other states,” says Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for Yes On 92, as the initiative is known. “We are approaching a tipping point.”

Labeling campaigns are designed to bypass the thorny scientific debate by reframing the issue around the consumer’s “right to know.” This idea polls extremely well with voters, but not so well that it can’t be overcome by an avalanche of spending on political ads. A poll released in July by Oregon Public Broadcasting put support for GMO labeling at a whopping 77 percent, while a poll released by a Portland TV station last week showed that voter support for the labeling measure has fallen to 53 percent, with 16 percent undecided.

Advocates for Oregon’s I-92 remain optimistic, however. While rural areas of Washington and California are strongly opposed to labeling, that’s less the case so far in Oregon, where GMO contamination incidents have angered farmers and two rural counties have banned cultivation of GM crops. The Oregon measure is also well timed: Young voters, who tend to support labeling, didn’t turn out to vote last year in Washington, but Oregonians will cast ballots this year on a pot legalization initiative, which is seen as a potential magnet for the non-AARP crowd. Anti-GMO activists, for the first time, are also funding a registration drive to target young voters.

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For now, at least, I-92’s backers have raised more money than its opponents, but nobody expects that advantage to last. In Washington, the anti-GMO crowd was outspent 3 to 1, and the chasm would have been even wider were it not for the heavy involvement of a few organics companies, notably Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, which is shoveling money at the Oregon effort.

Read full, original article: Is 2014 the “Tipping Point” for the GMO Labeling Movement?

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