Supporters of mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods have spent $630,000 on collecting signatures and expect to get a ballot initiative before Oregon voters in November.
“We will have enough signatures to qualify for the ballot,” said Sandeep Kaushik, spokesman for the Oregon GMO Right to Know petition committee. “The signatures have been coming in at a fairly rapid clip.”
Over the past two months, the committee has paid about $630,000 to Fieldworks, a professional signature-gathering company, according to campaign finance records.
Labeling proponents face a short time frame to gather the 87,000 signatures needed to get the proposed initiative on the ballot.
They didn’t begin circulating petitions for the proposed initiative until May 15, roughly a month and a half before the July 3 deadline to turn in signatures.
The late start was due to repeated revisions to the initiative language — the petition currently being circulated is the third version submitted to election authorities.
Kaushik said the changes were necessary to buttress the proposed initiative from misleading arguments by labeling critics.
“It was done very much as a way of limiting our opponents’ abilities to make the false attacks they’ve made in the past,” he said.
For example, the newest version of the initiative specifies that labeling won’t be required for pet food, Kaushik said.
The alterations were made in response to arguments against labeling in California and Washington, where similar labeling measures failed to pass, he said.
“That was a lesson learned from previous campaigns,” said Kaushik.
Opponents of mandatory labeling have also begun organizing in response to the anticipated ballot initiative.
“The coalition is being brought together to fight this labeling scheme,” said Scott Dahlman, executive director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, an industry group.
“Everyone from grocers to farmers and everything in between,” he said.
Dahlman said he hopes the initiative doesn’t qualify for the ballot, but labeling opponents have certainly spent enough money to make it a viable possibility.
The repeated revisions to the initiative won’t insulate the initiative from arguments against labeling, said Dahlman.
“I think there are still plenty of problems with their labeling scheme and once voters see what these are, they will reject it,” he said.
More than $1.1 million has been raised by the petition committee, which has spent about $850,000 of those funds, according to campaign finance records.
The initiative’s largest contributors are Mercola.com Health Resources, an alternative medicine company that donated $350,000, and Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps, a personal products company that donated $250,000.