Students and community organizations promote GMO labeling

Students gathered on Oct. 9 at University Place Hotel to discuss “Right to Know” Measure 92. The event included Food and Water Watch Northwest Organizer Julia DeGraw, Executive Director of Oregon Student Public Interest Group (OSPIRG) Dave Rosenfield and chief petitioner of the measure Scott Bates.

Measure 92 will be on the Nov. 2014 Oregon ballot. The measure calls for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be labeled in common settings, like grocery stores. According to information released by the Measure 92 campaign, GMOs are organisms engineered to be resistant to the negative effects of pesticides, or to even produce their own insecticide. Foods like corn and soy are commonly genetically engineered by companies like Monsanto and can be found in all sorts of food products.

“The pesticide is in the [genetically engineered] corn, you can’t just rinse it off,” DeGraw explained.

University Place Hotel, where the event was held, is located slightly off the Portland State campus. FWW Northwest Organizer Allison Barnwell said the group was not permitted to hold the event on campus.

“We can’t talk about GMOs at the school—it’s considered too political,” said Barnwell, who helped coordinate the event.

“This is not a liberal concern, this is a public interest concern,” Rosenfield said. Bates pointed out that “red” states like Arizona are also concerned about labeling GMOs.

The measure would only label food products that already have nutritional labels, so GMO identification would not be a part of restaurants or cafeterias like PSU’s dining hall in Smith Memorial Student Union.

“When I was in college, there was a lot of snacking going on. Students still buy packaged foods,” said DeGraw.

“Fundamentally, people deserve to have this information when grocery shopping,” Bates said.

Bates said the labeling is already prevalent in 64 countries and would only cost Oregonians $2.30 a year. “We’re doing this on existing packaging, which really keeps the costs down,” Bates said.

Rosenfield said efforts for Measure 92 have taken a grassroots approach compared to the opposing side of Measure 92, which has a significantly larger budget.

According to Barnwell, large chemical companies and corporations, including PepsiCo and Monsanto, are funding the opposition to Measure 92.

“The vote will probably be a very close call on either side,” Rosenfield said.

“We want students to be on board,” said Barnwell.

An informational table on Measure 92 will be available on the Park Blocks of PSU’s campus next week.