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Guest Opinion: Oregon poised to mandate GMO labeling

Southern Oregon’s organic farmers and consumers won a major victory earlier this year when they stopped the introduction of GMO seeds in their pristine valleys. Even though Syngenta and Monsanto funded huge television campaigns to try to stop the grass-roots organizing, the majority of county voters chose to protect their seeds and healthy food sources.

This week, the campaign for Ballot Measure 92 in Oregon is heating up in another show of force. The mandated labeling of GMOs to protect the public’s right to know was leading in early polling results by a very close margin, 49 percent to 44 percent.

As expected, big agri-business companies are flooding Oregon with millions in marketing funding to try to defeat the citizens’ concerns. This week DuPont donated a whopping $7.5 million ($4.5 million in Oregon, $3 million in Colorado, which has a similar labeling measure). This last-minute contribution has now trumped the record for the largest political campaign contribution in Oregon.

To try to defeat state measures in Oregon and Colorado, Monsanto has spent $8.8 million, adding to Pepsi ($3 million), Coke ($2 million), Kraft Foods (more than $1.5 million), General Mills ($1.5 million), and others such as Land o' Lakes Butter, Snickers, Kelloggs, Hormel Foods and Bumble Bee all contributing big amounts under $1 million.

Retired EPA scientist Dr. Ray Seidler is playing a key role in educating the public about the dangers of GMOs. Seidler, a micro-biologist who started the first federal research program on biosafety issues of GMOs, states, “Back then we only wanted to regulate GMOs because we didn’t know anything about them. Now we see what damage they can cause.” Seidler emphasizes, “The pure vitamin-laden seeds grown here in Oregon are now exported internationally to the 66-plus countries that have banned GMOs in their countries. The seeds grown in the Southern Oregon valley are in demand worldwide. So Oregonians want to protect that, too.”

Seidler also has been focused on the widespread failure of the Bt insecticidal trait in genetically engineered corn, especially in the rapidly emerging resistance in insects. This is manifesting currently as huge increases in coating seeds with insecticides and also injecting insecticides into the soil nationwide. Seidler recently teamed up with David Bronner, president of Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, to coauthor a white paper on the dangers of GMOs, titled "Pesticide Use on Genetically Engineered Crops." Bronner, who has a biology degree from Harvard, has been one of the biggest contributors in Oregon and Colorado in favor of GMO labeling.

Over the past two weeks, Bronner has placed advertorials in major publications such as Scientific American, The New Yorker, Harpers, The Nation, Harvard, Progressive Magazine and Mother Jones. However, two leading scientific publications, Science and Nature magazines, refused to publish the ad, which focused on the dangers of GMOs. A Science magazine rep stated in an email to Dr. Bronner’s staff, “We’re concerned about … getting into a battle with the GMO industry.”

In response, Bronner said, “The truth of the matter is the chemical industry has bought the seed industry and both political parties in this country, [and it] has pulled the wool over our media, political and scientific elites …”

Meanwhile in Oregon, the citizen’s initiative, Measure 92, has grown stronger with its own influx of financial backing to counter the negative effects of the big agricultural corporate donations.

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps and the Center for Food Safety have donated $1 million each for GMO labeling. Grassroots donations have also been matched by Mercola.com, and other healthy food companies such as Nature’s Path, Bob’s Red Mill, Nutiva, Stonyfield Farms, Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream and Amy’s Organics have contributed as well. The Organic Consumers Association, Presence Marketing, Food Democracy Now and Consumers Union have also contributed substantially to the labeling initiative.

To counter a move by the Hormel Foods Company (which donated $170,000 against labeling), Tom Hormel, heir of the Hormel Foods fortune, donated $500,000 in favor of the crucial GMO labeling, citing concerns about the high health risks from eating GMO foods.

The GMO labeling vote in Oregon and Colorado on Nov. 4 will be instrumental in raising the standards for a healthy future in the U.S., for consumers, for farmers and for the soil itself. President Dwight D. Einsenhower once stated, “The nation that destroys its soil, destroys itself.” The soil, the seed and the harvest are all being affected by this GMO labeling vote.

Jane Ayers, director of Jane Ayers Media, is an independent journalist based in Ashland. Email her at JaneAyersMedia@gmail.com, or visit her website: www.wix.com/ladywriterjane/janeayersmedia. This article first appeared online at www.readersupportednews.org.