This is the moment of the year we all wait for, when the editorial writers come down from the hills after the election battles to shoot some of the wounded. The one I’ll take is easy, the Black Knight of the national GMO labeling campaign. Those old enough will remember the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. With some skill as a swordsman, the Black Knight is said to have suffered from unchecked overconfidence and staunch refusal to give up. In the movie version, the Black Knight ends up getting both his arms and legs cut off, but continues to guard his bridge on his stumps, refusing to quit. That’s a pretty good depiction of where the national GMO campaign is at the moment. It’s on its stumps. After losing in California in 2012, and Washington State in 2013, the national GMO labeling campaign moved on to Oregon and Colorado in this past Tuesday’s election. (It had failed to quality for 2014 ballot placement in Arizona.) On Tuesday, it lost narrowly in Oregon after putting up an $8 million campaign that was opposed by the biotechnology and grocery industries with spending of more than $20 million. While outspent, the pro-GMO camp in this small market state enjoyed its most competitive campaign ever, but it still came up short. It had written off Colorado to put its national resources into Oregon, which was probably a good decision in that GMO labeling was crushed in the Centennial State in a near $17 million campaign that one television commercial after another featuring local farm leaders speaking directly into the camera. The “yes” campaign in Colorado spent less than $1 million Voter turnout in Oregon hit 68 percent, high for an off-year election. The boost may have come from recreational marijuana also being on the ballot, and many of those voters may have helped the GMO initiative too. Oregon’s Measure 92 was typical — it would have required the words “Genetically Engineered” on raw food and “Produced with Genetic Engineering” or “Partially Produced with Genetic Engineering” on food packaging. It would raise prices without much, if anything, in the way of consumer benefits. There are obviously some in the organic, soap and supplements business who must think they’d benefit, but that’s more of a follow-on story if it ever happens. Personally, I’ve found it hard to believe that for the price-conscious among us, the words “genetically engineered” would cause me to pay organic prices for anything. That is sort of an admission that I agree with those who say the best thing the food and biotech agriculture sectors could do would be to just embrace GMO labeling and move on. They say science and food safety is on the industry’s side and they’d be better off taking the money being spent on campaigns (About $120 million since 2012), and pour it into ongoing consumer education. But like the Black Knight, bravado is still coming out of the national GMO labeling movement’s mouth, although there is talk of taking a year off before filing for another state initiative campaign. Maybe we could all use that time to change the rhetoric and the narrative on this issue and give both sides a way out. Instead of the “right to know” blather we’ve been hearing since before California in 2012, how about we all agree on a “right to know something important” labeling plan. Here’s the idea: We’d come up with a uniform approach with a panel on all food packages listing all your various food types; GMO, organic, conventional, non-GMO, etc. Behind each one there would first be an on or off or red light, green light indicator, like with the light “on” if the product is organic. Then, and here’s where it gets good, there would be more indicators on the panel after the food type indicators: recalls, outbreaks, illnesses, and deaths. We’d rely on the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to update these numbers every year. We’d have to work out the details, but think of the true consumer benefit that would result from this approach versus the failed initiatives of the past. This new approach would create a powerful new incentive for food safety. Food companies would do everything possible to make sure their package did not have to report any illnesses or — god forbid — deaths on their product labels for the next year. Consumers, who are often misinformed about food safety, would be educated at the check-out counter and could make more informed decisions. The “right to know something important” labeling campaign is going to require bringing both the GMO and the organic camps together. That assumes either of them would want something important on the label, but that is something I seriously doubt. It sure would be a way of finding out if anybody in the grocery business really believes in this right to know stuff, would it not?