Many commentators frame the various state fights between those who support GMO labeling and opponents as a ‘David versus Goliath’ battles. That’s a tempting way to look at it. In Colorado and Oregon, which have labeling measures on the November ballot, mandatory labelling proponents are being outspent 2 to 1.
Food and agricultural companies and industry groups with a stake in genetic engineering, such as Monsanto and Kraft Foods are contributing heavily, but the raw dollar obscure what’s really being spent. Activist groups led by the Center for Food Safety, through its Action Fund, are pouring millions of dollars of untracked money into grassroots organizing. And they’re getting free advertising from the likes of Ben & Jerry’s and Chipotle Mexican Grill, which are getting a huge brand boost for appearing to stand with the ‘little guy.’
According to news accounts, and underscored in a Wall Street Journal editorial, the anti-GMO forces are mounting to what amounts to a scare campaign that bolsters their bottom line more than anything. “What’s all this really about?” the Journal asks.
First, making an extra buck: Oregon’s $233 million a year organic farm-gate sales industry “must be protected,” the initiative says. Requiring GMO labels, it notes later, may “create additional market opportunities” for non-GMO producers.
Long-term, the organic protectionists want to eliminate this safe, reliable technology that’s revolutionized agriculture and made food more affordable. The Organic Consumers Association, whose lobbying arm pitched in $300,000 for [Oregon] Measure 92, calls for a “global moratorium on genetically engineered foods and crops” on its website. Labeling is merely step one.
If passed–and both the Oregon and Colorado measures are leading in the polls–the labeling initiatives would require farmers who sell crops in those states to implement entirely new inventory procedures. Oregon alone says it will need to create two new state monitoring bureaucracies and would allow anyone to sue farmers, manufacturers or retailers for alleged violations–a windfall for groups like the Center for Food Safety, the anti-GMO litigation group. A recent GMO labeling study by two Cornell University scientists says that the cost inefficiencies that would result across the supply chain to manufacturers and retailers could boost a family of four’s food costs by as $500 more a year.