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Pro and Con on Measure 92 - Labeling of certain GMO foods

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Guest writer Patriciafaye Marshall of McMinnville is an activist for personal and social transformation. Her background includes the Peace Corps, raising money for a national presidential campaign, becoming an ordained minister and founding the Unitarian church in McMinnville. She is involved in Zero Waste for McMinnville and the Community Rights movement.
Guest writer Patriciafaye Marshall of McMinnville is an activist for personal and social transformation. Her background includes the Peace Corps, raising money for a national presidential campaign, becoming an ordained minister and founding the Unitarian church in McMinnville. She is involved in Zero Waste for McMinnville and the Community Rights movement.
Guest writer Helle Ruddenklau and her husband, Bruce, farm outside Amity. Helle is a member of Yamhill County Women for Agriculture and is passionate about our abundant, safe food supply. McMinnville Jaycees twice recognized the Ruddenklaus as Outstanding Farmers, and in 2009 they received a national farm award for young farmers.
Guest writer Helle Ruddenklau and her husband, Bruce, farm outside Amity. Helle is a member of Yamhill County Women for Agriculture and is passionate about our abundant, safe food supply. McMinnville Jaycees twice recognized the Ruddenklaus as Outstanding Farmers, and in 2009 they received a national farm award for young farmers.

Pro on Measure 92

By Patriciafaye Marshall

This summer, 155,661 Oregonians signed the petition to place a statewide GMO labeling initiative on the November ballot.

Oregonians have a pioneering spirit and value personal freedom and individual choice. Filled with this spirit, we want to know what’s in the food we eat.

We have the right to know certain information about our food — sugar and sodium levels, grams of trans fats, nitrites, artificial sweeteners, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, whether fish is wild-caught or farm-raised, whether our chicken is free range, etc. We also should have the right to choose whether we want to buy and eat genetically modified (GMO) food just as 64 other countries already do.

The Oregon Mandatory Labeling of GMOs Initiative is about honesty and transparency so citizens can make informed decisions about what to buy. Measure 92 is neither a ban on genetically modified food nor a debate on the science.

Agribusiness giant Monsanto defines genetically modified organisms as: “… plants or animals that have had their genetic makeup altered to exhibit traits that are not naturally theirs. In general, genes are taken from the seeds of one organism that shows a desired trait and transferred into the genetic code (the DNA) of another organism.”

This process is not an extension of conventional plant breeding. It is imprecise and can cause widespread mutations that disrupt the normal functions of genes, leading to unpredictable, possibly horrific effects.

What’s in a seed? Life itself! Ten thousand years ago, the earliest sowing and harvesting of plants in places like Iraq, Egypt and India made civilization possible. Since then, humans have been able to grow food and feed themselves.

Today, that freedom — embodied in seeds — is threatened. Multinational corporations such as Monsanto have radically changed the agricultural landscape. Imposition of “intellectual property rights” and patenting of seeds allow corporations to put a price tag on seeds and undo what for millenniums has been a shared heritage. There is intense resistance around the world to this corporate hijacking.

Despite Monsanto’s arguments, there are far better ways to ensure a safe and sustainable food supply than the use of GMOs. The Union of Concerned Scientists states: “While risk assessments are conducted as part of Genetically Engineered product approval, the data are generally supplied by the very company seeking approval, and Genetic Engineering companies use their patent rights to exercise tight control over research on their products. In short, there is a lot we don’t know about the risks of G.E. — which is no reason for panic, but a good reason for caution.” 

Science is always evolving, but that does not grant us the freedom to ignore the knowledge we currently have or postpone the action it appears to demand now. It seems to me such uncertainty has been manufactured expressly to delay and frustrate the regulatory process. Other examples of corporate misinformation campaigns have been the advertised “benefits” of tobacco, lead, mercury and asbestos.

In a recent New York Times poll, 93 percent of respondents said foods containing genetically modified ingredients should be labeled. Pretty much all processed foods made in the United States contain GMOs. If you’re eating corn, soy, canola or sugar from beets and it’s not labeled GMO-Free, you can bet it does, indeed, contain GMOs.

I see labeling as an initial public health protection. When an activity threatens to harm public health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken. We have a moral responsibility to protect all of life on this planet.

We can do our part as Oregonians by voting Yes on Measure 92.

Guest writer Patriciafaye Marshall of McMinnville is an activist for personal and social transformation. Her background includes the Peace Corps, raising money for a national presidential campaign, becoming an ordained minister and founding the Unitarian church in McMinnville. She is involved in Zero Waste for McMinnville and the Community Rights movement.

Con on Measure 92

By Helle Ruddenklau

My husband and I are family farmers in Yamhill County, and we are concerned about Measure 92, the GMO labeling initiative. While at first glance this measure might sound straightforward and simple, the reality is far different. It’s a complex, misleading initiative. It’s expensive for Oregon’s families and the state as a whole, and it does not provide usable information on which foods do or do not contain GMOs.

Proponents say Measure 92 is all about the right to know what is in our food. There is already a nationwide system in place providing that information. Consumers who prefer non-GMO foods can look for labels indicating “organic” or “non-GMO.” This voluntary system already works to identify foods without GMO ingredients. The same system also works to show which foods are free of wheat gluten and to identify potential allergens in foods.

This measure, however, is so full of exemptions and loopholes that consumers wouldn’t actually receive the information they think they would. As it turns out, two-thirds of the foods sold in Oregon would be exempt from Measure 92’s labeling requirements.

For example, any food sold in restaurants or served in cafeterias won’t be labeled. Neither will meat, milk or eggs — even if the animals have been fed GMO corn. Not only is this misleading to consumers, it conflicts with existing national labeling standards for organic and non-GMO meat and dairy products.

For consumers who want food labels to provide reliable information about which food products contain GMOs and which don’t, Measure 92’s complicated system of requirements and exemptions would fail them.

Measure 92’s labeling requirements would exist only in our state, with a heavy cost to Oregon’s family farmers. On our farm, we mostly grow conventional crops, but also have a few acres with GMO crops. Under this measure, we would have to guarantee that no part of the GMO crop ever came into contact with our regular crops in order to comply with the measure’s zero-tolerance requirement. That would be impossible for us to certify unless we purchased a second set of equipment to use on our few acres of GMO crops. Like most family farmers, we could not afford this, so we would effectively be denied the opportunity to choose which crops to grow on our farm.

Furthermore, Measure 92 would cost consumers money. Studies have indicated that grocery costs would rise by hundreds of dollars a year for a family. In a state already struggling with food insecurity, especially among children, that is a burden we cannot afford.

This measure would also be taxing on our state. The Department of Administrative Services estimated it would cost more than $14 million every two-year budget cycle to implement and enforce the measure. Measure 92 would create two new state bureaucracies to establish and enforce the law. The text of the measure indicates no method to pay for these agencies and contains no limitation on how much could be spent. I would rather see taxpayer money spent on higher priorities, such as education or reducing childhood hunger.

Last month, a randomly selected group of 20 Oregonians on the Citizens’ Initiative Review Panel studied Measure 92, listened to experts on both sides of the issue and heard directly from proponents and opponents. In the end, a majority of the panel voted to oppose Measure 92. The panel’s findings cited increased food costs, the measure’s broad exemptions and the fact that consumers already have existing national labeling systems providing the option to choose foods made without GMO ingredients.

I hope you will consider these arguments in this election. Please join me and Yamhill County family farmers in voting No on Measure 92.

Guest writer Helle Ruddenklau and her husband, Bruce, farm outside Amity. Helle is a member of Yamhill County Women for Agriculture and is passionate about our abundant, safe food supply. McMinnville Jaycees twice recognized the Ruddenklaus as Outstanding Farmers, and in 2009 they received a national farm award for young farmers.

Comments

listen*up

I want my food and seeds the way GOD made them,not interfered with by a greedy corporation who only cares about profit.I do not want frankenstein food.

maciswack

I want my food unaltered, and properly labeled like everyone else, and would love to see Monsanto and factory farms disappear. If you don't want Franken-food you have no choice but to grow your own (from heirloom seed of course) or to pay for organic. But this really should be a non-issue. Every processed product you buy from the store that is non-GMO will already have a non-GMO label or sticker on it. Anything without that label you can bet contains GMO of some kind. And in regards to produce, you get what you pay for. If your strawberries are $1.50 a pound they are GMO, if they cost $3-$4 a pound they probably aren't. What we should be fighting for are co-ops, eating local and making natural whole foods affordable to those with limited incomes.

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