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Update on the Oregon Battle
over the Labeling of GE foods

News Update From The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods
----------------------------------------------------------------------

Dear News Update Subscribers,

When passed into law, Measure 27 will require the labeling of
genetically engineered foods in the state of Oregon.

We expect the opposition's major advertising blitz financed by Monsanto
and the so-called "Coalition Against the Costly Labeling Law" to begin
any day now. They have already sent out mailings and have launched a web
site at: http://www.votenoon27.com

According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Monsanto and the coalition are
planning to spend $6 million in an effort to defeat Oregon's Measure 27.
(Monsanto's headquarters is located in St. Louis, Missouri.)
http://www.thecampaign.org/News/sept02t.htm#battles

$6 million is a huge amount of money to spend in a state the size of
Oregon for an initiative. Let's put this amount of money in perspective:

Most members of the House of Representatives running for office in the
state of Oregon spend far less than $1 million to get elected. According
to The Center for Responsive Politics, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden spent
$3,447,625 on campaign expenditures between 1997-2002. Oregon Senator
Gordon Smith spent $3,737,215 between 1997-2002.
http://www.opensecrets.org

The planned expenditure of $6 million by Monsanto and associates is
evidence of the importance of this showdown in Oregon over the future of
genetically engineered foods.

The effort in Oregon will be a classic David and Goliath battle. It is
pitting the special interest power of a few big corporations against the
will of the people. The people will win unless the propaganda from the
other side works. Their strategy is to try and convince Oregon voters
that the price of their foods will go up if Measure 27 is passed into
law. They also argue that genetically engineered foods are safe and
therefore need no special labeling.

There is an impressive group of people working on our side to counter
the misinformation campaign that is coming from Monsanto and their
coalition. The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods has teamed
up with Sierra Club, Greenpeace, the Organic Consumers Association and
other organizations to offer support to Oregon Concerned Citizens for
Safe Foods, the political action committee that spearheaded Measure 27.

The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods designed the web site
for Oregon Concerned Citizens for Safe Foods at www.labelgefoods.com.

The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods is also creating
another web site designed to counter the propaganda that the "Coalition
Against the Costly Labeling Law" is perpetrating on the Oregon voters.
We expect to have this special web site launched by next week.

The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods is incurring
significant additional expenses in our activities to support Measure 27.
Your financial support of our efforts to pass Measure 27 is welcome and
encouraged. If you would like to make a contribution, you can do so
online at: http://www.thecampaign.org/donateoregon27.htm

Naturally, donations can also be mailed in to our address below. A
special "Thank You!" to those of you who have already made a
contribution.

Posted below are two editorials from Oregon newspapers regarding
Measure 27.

The first editorial is from The Oregonian opposing Measure 27. The
Oregonian is a conservative newspaper and their opposition to Measure 27
is not a big surprise. When you read the lengthy Oregonian editorial,
you will notice it sounds like it was written by someone from the
biotech industry. It states that genetically engineered is "precise" and
that "There's no evidence that the resulting foods are harmful."

If you want to communicate with the editorial staff of The Oregonian,
their contact information is listed at the bottom of the editorial.

The second editorial is from the Corvallis Gazette-Times. This editorial
supports passage of Measure 27 and is titled "Food label measure a
no-brainer!" The article states, "We're looking forward to the campaign
against Measure 27 because we can't see an ethical basis for not
supporting such common-sense legislation. We only wish the federal Food
and Drug Administration had done its job and made this an industry
requirement before consumers had to take the initiative."

Our sentiments exactly! Bravo!

Corvallis is the home of Oregon State University, an institution that
receives considerable money for agricultural biotech research. So this
endorsement is significant and will hopefully influence some other
newspapers in the state as they determine whether to support or oppose
Measure 27.

Thanks again for supporting our efforts in Oregon. A successful outcome
will have a huge impact in moving forward the federal labeling
legislation.

Craig Winters
Executive Director
The Campaign to Label Genetically Engineered Foods

The Campaign
PO Box 55699
Seattle, WA 98155
Tel: 425-771-4049
Fax: 603-825-5841
E-mail: mailto:label@thecampaign.org
Web Site: http://www.thecampaign.org

Mission Statement: "To create a national grassroots consumer campaign
for the purpose of lobbying Congress and the President to pass
legislation that will require the labeling of genetically engineered
foods in the United States."

***************************************************************

The Oregonian
09/24/02

Editorials

Vote 'no' on labeling food

Genetically engineered food is becoming the rule, rather than the
exception, on American grocery-store shelves. By some estimates,
two-thirds or more of processed foods now contain ingredients derived
from genetically engineered corn and soy crops.

Unlike the old botanical roulette involved in combining plants to see
what traits emerge in their hybrids, genetic engineering is precise.
Single traits of one species are spliced into another.

There's no evidence that the resulting foods are harmful, but that has
done little to calm fears about them, particularly in Europe. Some
critics have dubbed them "Frankenfoods." Measure 27 on the November
ballot would make Oregon the first state in the nation to require
labeling of genetically engineered foods and dairy products sold or
distributed in, or from, Oregon.

We have no quarrel with the premise behind this measure, that consumers
deserve to know what they're eating. But for each state to free-lance
its own approach to labeling food is not a practical or coherent way to
provide this information. The optimal way would be through a national
labeling system, and indeed, something of the sort is already under way.

By late October, you may begin to see green-and-white labels in grocery
stores, certifying that a food is "organic" under the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's National Organic Program. This label is the result of
efforts, begun under the Clinton administration, to end years of
ambiguity and standardize the definition of "organic."

The new label, reflecting the definition that organic farmers themselves
pushed for, will certify that organic food, in addition to being grown
without pesticides, contains no genetically engineered ingredients.

The USDA embarked on this organic certification program because of the
chaos that resulted from the previous jumble of definitions, with
consumers getting sold different things in different states. Surely, we
know better than to reinvent that frustration by coming up with an
Oregon-specific labeling system for genetically engineered food.

The USDA labels may take some time to catch on, and they won't tell
people everything they want to know, but they will provide a better
guide than we now have. Food with the label will be certified to contain
no genetically engineered ingredients. Food without the label may
contain such ingredients, but you won't know for sure. That's not a
perfect system, but it's consistent with the understanding consumers
already have, that the burden is on them to seek out "organic" foods.

The USDA labels should give consumers enough information to steer clear
of genetically engineered food if they want to. And that's their right.
People do not choose food on a strictly scientific basis. They pick and
avoid foods every day for religious, political and personal reasons.
They should have the information to do so, even if others might judge
their choices to be irrational or whimsical.

We can see no reason, however, why the state of Oregon and its food
producers should pick up the costs for such food choices. Under the USDA
program, the costs of certification will mostly be borne by producers
who want the marketing edge the USDA label confers. Ultimately, of
course, consumers will pay more for this label, and that's as it should
be.

People disagree about what the costs would be if Oregon goes its own way
on food labeling, but they could be considerable. Separate crop
distribution systems could be required to sort the food, along with new
inspectors and certification systems.

If we had evidence that genetically engineered food was harmful, those
costs might be worth paying, but even then the problem would demand a
national solution, not a state one. As it is, we have no such evidence.

At a time when the federal Department of Agriculture is launching a
national program, aiming at consistency, it makes no sense for Oregon to
cobble together its own variation on labeling. Far from satisfying the
hunger for information, a single-state system would likely succeed,
mainly, in feeding consumer confusion.

Vote "no" on Measure 27.

We invite your letters to the editor. Send them to: Letters to the
editor, The Oregonian, 1320 S.W. Broadway, Portland, Or., 97201, or
letters@news.oregonian.com via electronic mail. They may also be faxed
to (503)294-4193.

Please limit letters to 150 words. Please include your full address and
daytime phone number, for verification only. Letters may be edited for
length and clarity.

***************************************************************

Corvallis Gazette-Times
September 23, 2002

Editorial: Food label measure a no-brainer

When considering statewide ballot Measure 27, don't get caught up in the
debate over whether food should be genetically engineered. That's not
what this measure concerns. If you want to buy and eat genetically
engineering food, be our guest.

What it's about is whether consumers should be made aware of the
ingredients of the food products they buy. We believe they should.

Nutrition and ingredient labels have become commonplace on the packages
of the foods we buy. We don't see any reason why it shouldn't also be
noted that the food has been created through some process that included
genetic engineering.

Then let consumers decide whether they want to buy the product.

While opponents may contend the opposite, we don't see how this
requirement will unduly burden those whose primary goal is making a
profit by serving consumers. Make a better product and consumers will
buy it.

In addition, those who market food already contend with numerous rules
in the distribution and labeling of their products; this law would only
apply to those products that should be labeled already anyway.

We're looking forward to the campaign against Measure 27 because we
can't see an ethical basis for not supporting such common-sense
legislation. We only wish the federal Food and Drug Administration had
done its job and made this an industry requirement before consumers had
to take the initiative.

 

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