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Forum by Pamplin Media/EO Media groups explores vast differences on Measure 92.



Representatives of the campaigns for and against the measure on the Nov. 4 ballot that would require labeling of food containing genetically modified ingredients didn’t agree on much during a forum Wednesday night at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry.

Measure 92 would require labels on most foods purchased at the store that contain genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Food exempt from labeling under Measure 92 includes meat and dairy, as well as restaurant food.Photo Credit: ALVARO FONTAN - Left: Dave Rosenfeld, executive director of the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group. Right Dana Bieber, a spokeswoman for the No on 92 campaign.

Voters rejected similar labeling measures in California in 2012 and Washington in 2013.

Dave Rosenfeld, executive director of the Oregon State Public Interest Research Group, said some people think GMOs are unsafe and consumers have a right to know whether their food contains them.

Dana Bieber, a spokeswoman for the No on 92 campaign, said Measure 92 would not provide an accurate labeling system because of the exemptions would mean 60 percent of food wouldn’t be labeled.

She said Americans have been eating GMO foods for two decades, and scientists who studied health effects of these foods have not found any problems.

“They are the most tested food in our entire food supply system,” Bieber said.

Bieber said Measure 92 would be expensive for farmers and food processors because they would have to use separate equipment for any non-GMO products.

Countering arguments that the measure would increase the cost of food, Rosenfeld said the cost would be minimal if Oregonians follow the lead of more than 60 countries that have mandated GMO food labels.

Food producers already label food products exported to those countries, he said.

“If they can do it over there, they should do it here for us,” Rosenfeld said of food producers.

Rosenfeld said GMO seeds, modified to resist certain chemicals, cause farmers to increase the use of herbicides. These weed killers end up in water, soil and food.

To make his point, he brought two Mason jars containing corn seed. One contained familiar-looking yellow corn seeds, and the other held genetically engineered corn that was tinted blue.

Rosenfeld said the genetically engineered corn seed was dyed blue to identify its coating of “five different types of pesticides.”

“That is absolutely false and you know it,” Bieber said. “Every farmer and every scientist in this state knows that is nothing more than a colored dye to identify the seed.”

Rosenfeld said consumers want to know whether foods they purchase at the grocery store contain GMOs. But Bieber said people can already find products that don’t contain GMOs, which are voluntarily labeled either as “organic” or “non-GMO.”

When Rosenfeld and Bieber were asked whether the groups they represent would support a federal GMO labeling standard, Bieber said the opponents of Measure 92 have a variety of opinions on the issue.

Rosenfeld said the “yes” campaign would like to see a federal standard.

Supporters and opponents of Measure 92 raised a record amount of campaign cash, with a combined total of $16.7 million raised and $13.4 million spent as of Saturday, the Portland Tribune reported.

The forum was sponsored by Pamplin Media Group and EO Media Group, which together own 35 newspapers in the state.

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