Next Tuesday, Oregon voters will be asked to decide whether or not to force food companies to label foods that were prepared using genetically improved methods, “even if the final product shows no trace of biotech ingredients. The campaign for this edict, organized by organic food marketers and environmental scaremongers, recently attracted the support of Paul McCartney, who recorded a 30-second radio commercial endorsing the measure.
But it looks like not even nostalgic Beatlemania or alarmist cries of “bioterrorism” will save Oregon’s “Measure 27” from defeat next week. KGW television is reporting new polling numbers showing that 65 percent of Oregon voters are opposed to the ballot question.
It’s not yet clear just why Oregonians are rejecting anti-biotech hysteria so forcefully. Perhaps it’s the widely reported estimate that forcing labels on genetically improved foods would cost the average family over $550 per year, as food companies would have to pass their expenses on to consumers. Or maybe it’s the concern that restaurants would go broke trying to track biotech ingredients, or even adding daily “genetic disclaimers” to their menus. The president of one upscale restaurant group told Salem’s Statesman Journal that restaurateurs would quickly see a “closed for business” label slapped on Oregon if Measure 27 passes.
Regardless of their reasons for opposing an expensive, needless labeling mandate, Oregonians should know two things. First, federal courts have already ruled that similar laws passed in other states are unconstitutional. And second, there’s an ulterior motive behind social activists’ calls for biotech food labels. Some have been boasting for 5 years that labeling “has the same effect as a ban.” Andrew Kimbrell of the misnamed Center for Food Safety spelled out the battle plan back in 1997. “We are going to force people to label this food,” he told an on-line magazine. “If we have it labeled, then we can organize people not to buy it.”