In an election characterized by changing leads and close calls, Oregonians delivered one of the nation’s most decisive and stinging defeats to Measure 27, a proposal which would have required special labels on all foods produced with biotechnology.

The victory came largely as a result of a concerted effort by producers of genetically improved foods, who spent over $5 million to make sure that Oregon voters understand one basic truth: food technology is something to be proud of, not a hazard to be warned about.

The anti-scientific scaremongers who understand that labeling is “the same as a ban” may have lost this round, but they’re by no means giving up the fight. The Associated Press reported last night that Donna Harris, the figurehead “concerned mom” who filed Measure 27 on behalf of “natural” and organic food marketers, “said she would bring the issue back again in 2004 and form a political action committee to help other states do the same.”

“Our volunteers,” Harris observed, “are jazzed about the possibility of another campaign.”

This morning’s AP wire carries a revised story quoting Harris in a wait-till-next-year mood. “The opposition has been very good teachers,” she says. “We’re definitely going to use what we learned when we file the next initiative.”

Activists from all over the organic and anti-biotech food movements are already gearing up for the next fight. Next week, the Genetic Engineering Action Network will host a three-day summit in Kentucky, aimed at training foot-soldiers for a continued battle against genetically improved foods.

And the misnamed Center for Food Safety (CFS), funded largely by “natural” food companies and fringe-movement “deep ecologists” like Douglas Tompkins, issued a news release last night as the polls closed in Oregon. “Whatever the outcome of Measure 27,” CFS activists now claim that 88 percent of Americans desperately want warning labels on biotech foods. “This is not the end,” vows CFS’ Joe Mendelson, “only the beginning in both Oregon and nationwide.”