If anti-technology activists in Oregon get their way in November, it will soon be illegal for Oregonians to grow, sell, package, or distribute food containing genetically improved ingredients — unless, of course, they want to add extra labels to their products. And biotech labeling activists are so confident that new food labels will be seen by the public as a warning that they have boasted for years that “labeling has nearly the same effect as a ban.”
So why should people from other states care? According to The San Jose Mercury News, Californians have plenty to worry about. The paper noted this week that “a similar campaign [to the Oregon ballot initiative] is planned for California.”
Even if Oregon were the only place to require biotech food labels, says Mercury News reporter Lisa Krieger, the influence of such a law “would be vast, because most foods sold in the state are grown and processed elsewhere.” And the language of the proposed Oregon law is so vague and broadly written that “many, perhaps most, foods” would have to carry warning labels.
One opponent of the ballot initiative told the Mercury News just how far activists are going in their zeal to banish food technology: “If a chicken in Arkansas eats any [genetically improved] corn in its feed, and then lays eggs, and its eggs are powdered and then used in a cake mix in Oregon — that cake mix will require a label, even though the feed never ended up in the cake mix. The breadth of the application of this is staggering.”
It’s worth noting that the money behind Oregon’s biotech labeling initiative is coming primarily from organic food marketers and “natural foods” companies, many of whom would love to see a virtual skull-and-crossbones on every food product but their own. As Andrew Kimbrell of the activist Center for Food Safety wrote a few years back, “If we have it labeled, then we can organize people not to buy it.”