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Oregon Group Ready to Put GMO Labeling on the Ballot

Oregon Group Ready to Put GMO Labeling on the Ballot
Oregon Right to Know group says enough signatures have been gathered to get a GMO labeling measure on the state's November ballot

Oregon Right To Know, a group formed to support GMO labeling in Oregon, said Wednesday it has collected 155,661 petition signatures – 68,448 more than were officially needed – to qualify a GMO labeling measure for the state's November ballot.

If passed, the legislation would require manufacturers to label foods that contain genetically engineered ingredients in the state by 2016.

Group organizers said paid gatherers and volunteers were collecting the signatures, which had to be submitted by Thursday to the Secretary of State.

Oregon Right to Know group says enough signatures have been gathered to get a GMO labeling measure on the state's November ballot. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Support surfaces, but fight likely ahead
The measure – Initiative 44 – is supported by the Center for Food Safety, Food & Water Watch, and Michael Hansen, a senior scientist at Consumers Union.

Similar legislation has appeared as ballot measures in California in 2012 and Washington last year, though neither received enough votes to pass.

According to analysis group MapLight, funding in opposition of both the California and Washington measures outpaced funding from supporters. California's Proposition 37, for example, saw $45 million in opposition funding versus $9 million from the measure's supporters.

Related: GMO Labeling Measure Fails in Washington

David Rosenfeld, executive director of Oregon Right To Know, said that spread is likely to appear again for the Oregon vote.

“We know from past experience that the big chemical companies that manufacture GMOs, like Monsanto and Dow, will spend millions to try to confuse the issue and block Oregon residents from being able to decide for themselves whether or not to eat GMOs,” Rosenfeld said during a press conference in May.

The measure follows action from two Oregon Counties – Jackson and Josephine – earlier this year to ban GMO cultivation. Both bans require GMO crops, including perennial crops like alfalfa, to be removed within the next 12 months.

More support for the anti-GMO and GMO labeling camp was also found earlier this year in a move by Vermont legislators, who approved GMO labeling bill for the state, set to go into effect by July 2016.

Related: Oregon Counties Vote Banning GMOs Could Impact November Labeling Vote

Vermont's bill does not include population or surrounding state limits like the bills approved previously in Maine and Connecticut, which require four or five other states to pass GMO labeling laws before they can be enacted.

A voluntary national labeling bill, introduced in the House by Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Kan., and advocated by the Grocery Manufacturers Association, would give the Food and Drug Administration ultimate power to label GMOs and trump states' laws, if any.

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