Center for Food Safety today expressed deep disappointment that a multi-million dollar opposition campaign narrowly defeated an Oregon ballot initiative that would have mandated labeling of genetically engineered (GE) food. Measure 92 lost by a mere 812 votes, triggering a recount and making it the closest statewide election in Oregon history. An emergency lawsuit was filed by the Yes on 92 campaign in order to prevent over 4,000 votes from being thrown out by state officials due to non-fraudulent discrepancies in voter signatures. The judge agreed that leaving the ballots uncounted would cause irreparable harm to those voters and to the Measure 92 campaign, but ultimately ruled that Oregon law didn’t allow him to issue the order to stop count.
In total, the opposition campaign raised over $20 million, easily surpassing the previous record for spending on an Oregon ballot initiative, which was $12 million for both sides combined. Monsanto donated nearly $5 million, DuPont Pioneer $4.5 million, Dow AgroSciences over a $1.1 million, with Pepsi and Coke, who use sugar and corn genetically engineered to be resistant to herbicides in their products, combining for over $3.5 million.
“This loss is not a defeat. Monsanto and the corporations who opposed this Measure had to spend $20 million dollars in deceptive, misleading advertising and still only won by the slimmest of margins. How long do they intend to keep up this absurd spending? Because the food movement isn’t going anywhere,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of Center for Food Safety.
“Thank you to the tireless efforts of so many organizers, activists and volunteers in Oregon, and across the country. We are proud to stand with you and will continue to fight for your right to know,” said Kimbrell. “All eyes now turn to Washington, D.C., where industry backed lawmakers are working to block this kind of democratic debate over GE food labeling. We won’t let that happen.”
In Colorado, where a similar ballot initiative was also up for a vote, the anti-labeling side spent over $16 million, hugely outspending the Yes on 105 campaign.In all, companies funding anti-labeling campaigns have spent over $100 million in just four states – California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado.
Center for Food Safety, a lead author of Measure 92, supported the Oregon campaign extensively, at the legal, advocacy, and grassroots level and as a member of the Steering Committee. CFS’s political arm, Center for Food Safety Action Fund, raised over $1 million to support Measure 92 and helped mobilize thousands of volunteers in Oregon and across the country. CFS previously worked with and provided legal and grassroots support to campaigns in Oregon to ban the planting of GE crops in two Oregon counties, and worked with the State Senate to ban GE canola in the Willamette Valley until 2019. CFS also co-authored GE food labeling ballot initiatives in California and Washington and has worked on the issue for over a decade.
Oregon would have been the fourth U.S. state to require GE labeling. Connecticut and Maine each passed GE labeling laws this past spring, but both bills include a trigger clause requiring several other states to also pass labeling bills before the new laws can be implemented. Vermont was the first state to pass a no-strings-attached labeling law, set to go into effect in 2016.
Numerous states are already planning to introduce GE food labeling bills in 2015 or are considering ballot initiatives of their own. In 2014, 36 bills were introduced in 20 states and experts are projecting the number to be as high or higher in 2015.
Ballot initiatives have a history of requiring multiple attempts before successful passage. In the case of marijuana legalization, states tried seven times, starting in 1972, before Colorado and Washington State successfully led passed initiatives in 2012.