The folks in Oregon who want a vote of the people on labeling foods with genetically modified ingredients have it backwards, on three counts.
First, they say they may not have time to gather the 87,000 signatures needed to get the initiative on the fall ballot so they want the Legislature to put it there for them. Their efforts to save time and money are appreciated, but the whole reason for the initiative process is to circumvent the Legislature. Initiative pushers say the Legislature cannot be trusted to carry out the public’s business and only a direct vote of the people will work, yet they want legislators to do their work.
We’ve previously noted on this page that the initiative process is deeply flawed because it takes a raw idea and asks the public to transform it directly into law. It is not vetted in any way, and does not receive the scrutiny of committee hearings, where it could be improved. We’ve seen time and again where initiatives on ideas, good and bad, have passed and become laws that are almost uniformly bad.
If the anti-GMO folks want an initiative they should leave the legislature out of it, collect the signatures and go from there.
Second, GMO labeling efforts are backwards. Instead of labeling the vast majority of foods that have GMO ingredients, they should label the foods that don’t have GMOs in them. It would be far less costly, and provide those producers with a ready sales pitch for consumers who care about such things.
The USDA organic label is a successful and highly valued. It can be used because GMO seeds are not allowed in an organic operation. The Non GMO Project’s verification label also tells consumers exactly what they want to know. Individual growers and manufacturers can obtain certification and market their products using it without the need for an initiative vote.
Grocery stores like Whole Foods Market have already gotten into the act. Since 2009, Whole Foods has put the Non GMO Project’s verified label on 4,800 products it sells. By 2018, everything in Whole Foods stores will be labeled non-GMO, according to the company’s website.
Whole Foods demonstrates that consumers who care can be fully informed of whether their food contains GMO ingredients without dragging the government into it.
Third, GMO labels would make food cost more in Oregon and reduce the selection. For those label proponents who say they stick up for the “little guy,” pushing a proposal that will increase food prices is backwards. Many low-income people in Oregon struggle to put food on the table, yet this proposal would make food more expensive.
Oregonians have already voted against labeling GMOs once, 12 years ago. More recently, California and Washington voters have rejected the idea.
Maybe it’s time for the anti-GMO folks to rethink their backwards strategy.