Oregon Right to Know said it was gathering signatures to get its
measure on the November ballot as the fight over genetically
modified food heats up in Oregon, where voters in one county will
decide next week whether to ban modified plants entirely.
"It's going to be a major effort," said Sandeep Kaushik, spokesman
for campaign organizer Oregon Right to Know. "We believe that people
have a right to know what's in the food they eat and feed their
The group needs 87,213 signatures by July 3 to get its measure on
the ballot, which if it passes would require labeling of products
containing genetically modified ingredients, aimed at making them
resistant to disease and insects, to begin in January 2016.
Consumer groups and lawmakers supporting mandatory labeling say
there are concerns about the safety and the environmental impacts of
genetically engineered crops, and labels would help consumers
distinguish products containing GMOs so they can avoid them if they
The consumer sentiment has pushed a growing number of U.S. food
companies to start using non-genetically modified ingredients for
their products because of the consumer backlash against GMOs.
Vermont earlier this month became the first state to mandate GMO
But the move away from GMOs has upset the food and agriculture
industries, including makers of genetically modified corn, soybeans,
canola and other crops widely used in packaged foods. They say their
products are safe, and that mandatory labels will confuse consumers
and increase costs.
The Oregon labeling campaign also comes as one rural farming
community in southern Oregon is due to decide during a primary
ballot next Tuesday whether to ban genetically engineered plants
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Katie Fast, vice president of public policy for the Oregon Farm
Bureau, said her organization was opposed to both a GMO ban as well
as local or state labeling requirements although it supports a
national effort for voluntary labeling.
Patrick McCormick, who worked as a spokesman in opposition to a 2002
Oregon campaign to require GMO labeling, said labeling opponents
would likely focus in part on potential cost burdens, but also cast
doubt on the benefit of such a requirement.
"In the end, they don't provide meaningful information to the
consumers on the product," he said.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)
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