groceries

After recent ‘right-to-know’ GMO labeling ballot initiatives in both Washington and California failed to pass despite a groundswell of support in both states, Oregon voters will get their chance at passing a GMO labeling bill this coming November.

If Measure 92 passes, the Genetically Engineered Raw and Packaged Food Labeling Act would mandate the labeling of genetically engineered ingredients in packaged foods sold within the state. It would not require labeling on animal feed or foods available in restaurants.

Two Oregon counties recently banned the cultivation of GMO crops within their county lines, giving fuel to Measure 92. But the state has a history with GMO labeling measures. A similar initiative was defeated in 2002 in Oregon, largely as a result of tactics the anti-labeling camp employed in both the recent losses in California and Washington. The “No” camps funded by the Grocery Manufacturer’s Association and other Big Food industry lobbies repositioned the measures as “costly food labeling bills.” One of the main tactics was suggesting that food prices would skyrocket if the measures passed.

With a comparable annual revenue to Monsanto, which donated millions to defeat the measures in California and Washington, Whole Foods Market, the leading natural foods retailers, was criticized for its inactivity on the issue and failure to donate funds. But the chain has swiftly announced its support of Measure 92.

“At Whole Foods Market, we believe consumers have a fundamental right to know what’s in their food so that they can make informed choices about what’s right for them and their families,” said Joe Rogoff, Whole Foods Market’s Regional President of the Pacific Northwest in a statement.

“We label ingredients, we label allergens, we label nutrients, and we label countries of origin. Why wouldn’t we also require labeling for genetic modification? The time has come for the people of Oregon to let their voices be heard and make a change,” said Rogoff.

Whole Foods is currently in the process of requiring labeling on all genetically modified foods sold in its stores. The retailer says the process will be complete by 2018.

If it passes, Measure 92 would go into effect in January 2016.

Vermont recently passed a mandatory labeling law to take effect in July 2016. The Grocery Manufacturer’s Association and other groups have sued the state citing the law violates corporations’ First Amendment rights.

Find Jill on Twitter @jillettinger

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The Paradox in Prop 37′s Failure: Labels, Lies and Learning to Cook for Ourselves

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