A Colorado ballot initiative looks like it will make this fall’s general-election ballot after spending less than one-tenth of the amount spent to put a similar measure before Oregon voters in November.
Both proposals call for labels on food made with genetically engineered ingredients. Colorado’s Initiative 48 should make the ballot with about $90,000 spent. Oregon’s I-44 goes to voters in November after a $1.3-million signature campaign. Colorado’s population of 5.2 million is larger than Oregon’s 3.9 million.
Right to Know Colorado GMO organizer Larry Cooper is a trade show and convention show organizer who claims that volunteers, not paid petition circulators, were key to the petition drive’s success. From June on, however, campaign disclosure documents filed with the Colorado Secretary of State show that payments were being made to a steady stream of paid signature gatherers.
And, the four-page Colorado initiative contains a potentially costly problem.
I-48 drafters exempted several categories of food from the proposed new law, including animal feed and drink, alcoholic beverages, and even chewing gum. They also exempted meat from all animals, even if the critter had been fed a diet of genetically engineered food, and they exempted food not packaged for retail sale.
But there is no exemption for Colorado’s newest industry — recreational marijuana and its edible products, including many made with bakery products that contain genetically modified ingredients. Labels on edibles, which are supposed to disclose concentrate levels and serving sizes, are confusing for some.
Cooper declined an opportunity to comment on whether the initiative might be hurt for not exempting marijuana, especially edible marijuana.
It’s too early to know how the marijuana industry will react to that. They’ve been highly protective of the cutouts they won in their own voter initiative in 2012. Chances are they no more want to place GMO labels on marijuana products than distillers would want to put such signs on their bourbon.
The marijuana industry joining grocery manufacturers and biotechnology would amount to an even more formidable fundraising base for opponents of GMO labeling in Colorado.
Right to Know Colorado GMO will face opposition led by the Coalition Against the Misleading Labeling Initiative, which raised a quick $200,000 from the Grocery Manufacturing Association, Colorado Farm Bureau, Biotechnology Organization, Colorado Bioscience Association, Nutrition Edge Communications, Rocky Mountain Food Industry Association, Pioneer Hi-Bred Research Center, Dow Agro Sciences LLC and the Monsanto Company.
The opposition committee in Colorado has already enlisted Winner & Mandabach Campaigns, California-based political consultants with lots of ballot measure experience and a 90-percent win record. They’ve already beat back GMO labeling campaigns in California and Washington state during recent election cycles.
Right to Know Colorado GMO had only $28,515 in the bank on Aug. 1, according to campaign disclosures filed with the Colorado Secretary of State. Except for a $25,000 contribution from Clear Lake, IA-based Food Democracy Action and $10,000 from Keene, NH-based United Natural Foods Inc., Right to Know Colorado GMO has been a grassroots-funded, mostly small-donor campaign.
The same cannot be said about the other state where a GMO ballot measure has qualified for the ballot. Oregon Right to Know has pocketed six-figure donations from Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and the Oregon Consumers Fund. All told, Oregon Right to Know spent $1.3 million getting its ballot measure qualified for the November ballot and had $220,000 in cash available for the start of the next phase of the campaign.
Oregon’s measure, Initiative 44, would require all food with ingredients subjected to genetic engineering to bear the words “Genetically Engineered” or either the front or back of the package. If the food is not packaged, as in produce sections, stores would have to plant labels about stating the same thing.
Oregonians for Food and Shelter, an ongoing coalition of the state’s agriculture, timber, and biotechnology industries, will lead the campaign against I-44. It says that labeling will cost taxpayers and consumers millions and hurt Oregon farmers and food producers.© Food Safety News