Ballot Initiatives to Regulate GE Foods Gain Momentum in US

Ballot Initiatives to Regulate GE Foods Gain Momentum in US

June 24, 2001

The Non-GMO Source newsletter, beginning with its 12 page July issue, will
include information on ballot initiatives that are relevant to non-gmo food. This
information will be placed in the section of "Regulatory News" which already
contains information on other governmental acts related to genetic engineering.
The Non-GMO Source newsletter is already being sent to a rapidly increasing
number of diverse stakeholders including both non-gmo and gmo seed suppliers,
food producers, processors, commercial and government buyers, grower
networks and agriculural trade associations, newspapers and others in the U.S.
and abroad.

Feel free to forward this information to others. Also, July is the month when
school food buyers arrange most of their food contracts for the coming year.
It may be too late to get them to change their specifications this time on many
foods but please forward this message to school food buyers too. It will be
helpful for the buyers and PTA's to know what is on the horizon and some
buyers may voluntarily begin to source non-gmo foods and ingredients even

Following news item from The Non-GMO Source, followed by other important


U.S. citizen-sponsored ballot initiatives aim to regulate GM foods

Initiative petitions to label GM foods statewide are circulating in Florida, Oregon
and Washington. Citywide petitions to regulate GM food in K-12 schools are
circulating in Denver, CO and Portland, OR . If enacted by voters, the Denver
initiative would make it "unlawful for any person to sell or distribute on school
premises, including through vending machines, any genetically engineered
food, until such food has been confirmed, through a successful food safety
testing assessment, safe for consumption by humans under eighteen years
of age."

Dane Waters, President of the Institute for Initiative & Referendum in
Washington, D.C. says such initiatives can impact national regulation of GM
foods, "Historically, similar groundbreaking initiatives have precipitated
major federal laws like women's right to vote, child labor laws, and election
of U.S. Senators," he says.

Source - The Non-GMO Source newsletter,


What is the significance of such initiatives?

As stated by Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe Staff, in a June 7 article about the
initiative process, "Initiatives are the last resort of desperate citizens, a way
to check the power of remote or arrogant lawmakers. When politicians
refuse to heed the public, when special interests block reform, when the
governor is disdainful, when the courts offer no relief, voters in 24 states
still have some leverage: They can bypass the Legislature and change the
statute-book themselves."

The provisions of the proposed Denver ordinance are comprehensive and
stringent. They cover a full range of GM foods, including any food containing
genetically modified material that accounts for "at least one tenth of one percent
or more of the weight of any ingredient or component of the product...". The
battery of tests required to confirm safety would not be allowed to rely on the
concept of "substantial equivalence" and would include long term toxicological
feeding tests using the whole transgenic food for a "minimum of three years".
The need for proper safety testing will result in schools buying non-gmo and
organic food.

How large is the potentially affected market? The U.S.D.A. budget was $5.43
billion this year for free and partially subsidized school meals which serve only
one half of the K-12 students. The other one half of the students who pay in full
for meals or snacks on school premises could add another $5 billion for a total
market of over $10 billion annually in the U.S. By comparison, the Wall Street
Journal estimated that the total general market for non-gmo foods is currently
$7.8 billion a year."

Jeff Peckman
B.I.G.G. Alliance

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