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Expensive battle set over GMO labeling.



Both sides have begun airing television spots for and against Measure 92, a ballot initiative that would require labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms sold in Oregon.

The campaign for the measure has released two ads, one featuring Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist for Consumer Reports, who was in Oregon in early September.

“He is really one of the nation's best food safety experts, especially on the effects of genetically engineered foods,” said Sandeep Kaushik, spokesman for the Oregon Right to Know campaign.

The other pro-92 ad features three farmers, two identified as being from Jackson County, where voters approved a GMO ban May 20 along with neighboring Josephine County. None is identified by last name.

“Our ads are about providing Oregon voters with the information they need to see through the distorted and often-false claims by the other side,” Kaushik said.

The campaign against the measure has released an ad focusing on the vote by a Citizens Initiative Review panel, which split 11-to-9 against it on Aug. 24. Findings and statements by panel supporters and opponents will be reproduced in the state voters pamphlet and the online voters guide.

“What our ads do is start to get the facts out about Measure 92,” said Dana Bieber of the No on 92 Coalition. “The more voters know about the measure, the less they are going to like it.”

Points of dispute

The same ad asserts the measure would create exemptions for alcohol, meat and dairy products — feed may contain GMO products — and restaurant food and beverages.

The categories are portrayed in a graphic in the ad opposing Measure 92.

Kaushik said none of these categories is subject to labeling under Measure 92, except under another law already on the books barring “misbranding.”

Two other anti-Measure 92 ads also feature farmers: Matt Frketich of St. Paul, and Katie Fast of Perrydale, near Dallas. Fast also is vice president for public policy at the Oregon Farm Bureau Federation, which opposes the measure.

“This measure hits at the heart of farmers,” Bieber said. “There is a reason why every major farming organization in the state is urging a ‘no’ vote, because it hurts Oregon family farmers.”

But Kaushik said the measure specifically shields farmers from liability for labeling, unless they also are manufacturers or retailers.

In addition to the Our Family Farms Coalition that backed the two Southern Oregon GMO bans, Kaushik said. Measure 92 is backed by the Friends of Family Farms and several individual Granges.

The Oregon State Grange opposed a similar 2002 measure, which voters rejected, but hasn’t taken a stand on Measure 92.

Expensive campaign

The ads are the start of what is easily the most expensive of the campaigns on seven statewide measures on the Nov. 4 ballot.

As of Oct. 1, supporters reported raising and spending $2.84 million, $1 million of which went toward signature-gathering efforts to qualify Measure 92 for the ballot. The committee reported a deficit of $56,000 after pending bills.

Opponents reported raising nearly twice that amount — $5.45 million — and spending $4.8 million. It had around $600,000 on hand.

Out-of-state contributions play a big role on both sides.

Measure 92 opponents have amassed virtually all of their money from major food companies and biotechnology groups. Among them as of Oct. 1 are Monsanto Co., $1,584,600; General Mills, $695,000, and PepsiCo, $650,000.

Major contributions to Measure 92 supporters have been made by Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, $650,000; Mercola.com Health Resources, $550,000, and Presence Marketing Inc., $200,000.

The lag between receipt and reporting of contributions and spending will be shortened in the month before the Nov. 4 election.

Similar measures were defeated in California in 2012 and Washington in 2013. But spending was reported at $46 million in California and a state record $22 million in Washington.

Colorado has a similar measure on its ballot.

Vermont is the only state with a requirement for GMO labeling, but the law — which would take effect July 1, 2016 — is being challenged in federal court.

Similar laws passed in Connecticut and Maine will take effect only when neighboring states follow suit.

Voter movement?

The Oregon record for one-side spending on a ballot measure campaign is $12 million by tobacco companies in 2007, when voters rejected an increase in cigarette taxes to pay for an expansion of children’s health care. The expansion was funded by other means in 2009.

Early public opinion surveys indicate majority support for Measure 92 from those sampled, but with the campaign entering its final weeks — and mail ballots going out to voters starting Oct. 18 — the result could go either way.

The latest Survey USA results, released last week by Portland TV station KATU, indicated 53 percent of 568 sampled voters favor Measure 92, 21 percent against it, with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points. The share of the “yes” vote has not moved much from previous surveys conducted in June and August, but the “no” vote has moved up steadily.

The latest survey also indicated that 26 percent had not made up their minds.

Both sides say they expect the Nov. 4 vote will be closer than the 2002 result, which was 70 percent against Measure 27.

Links to ads supporting Measure 92:

Michael Hansen: >www.youtube.com/watch?v=IGNZMJHSIE0&feature=youtu.be

Farmers:

www.youtube.com/watch?v=16kfmLw6zhk&feature=youtu.be

Links to ads opposing Measure 92:

Citizens Initiative Review:

>www.youtube.com/watch?v=3_HOgntB1z0&feature=youtu.be

Farmer Matt (Frketich):

>www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoUZ0ME54Xc&feature=youtu.be

Three Generations (Katie Fast):

www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hRBwJOLuxc&feature=youtu.be

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twitter.com/capitolwong


Updates with contributions and spending totals reported on Oct. 1.

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