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Oregon Supporters of GMO Labeling Clear Big Hurdle for 2014 Initiative as They Try to Woo Funders

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Oregon News page.

A proposed ballot measure to require the labeling of foods with genetically modified organisms sold in Oregon has cleared a big legal hurdle, allowing sponsors to soon begin collecting signatures to qualify for the 2014 ballot.

But supporters are still figuring out just how to proceed in the wake of a narrow defeat for an almost identical measure in Washington state.

The Oregon Supreme Court recently dismissed a challenge to the ballot title for the initiative, which is closely patterned after the Washington measure.

Scott Bates, a Tigard software architect and director of GMO Free Oregon, said his group will soon be ready to gather signatures.  However, "we are still absorbing the lessons from" the Washington defeat, he said.  "We're having a gut check at the moment but we're planning on moving forward."

As part of its gut check, the group is also putting the final wording on an alternative measure that makes some changes aimed at blunting some of the charges leveled at the Washington initiative by the food and biotechnology industries.

That defeat "spooked a lot of the donor community," said Bates, and he's working to make sure funders are comfortable with the language of any labeling initiative put on the Oregon ballot.  

If the group decides to go ahead with this new initiative wording, they'd have to go through the ballot title process again.  That could delay signature gathering for several months and require the group to spend more on paid canvassers to be sure of making the ballot.  (The group needs to collect 87,213 signatures by early July to qualify).

At this point, Bates said he's not entirely which route he will go, although he said he is confident that he will aim for next November's ballot.  
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