By Taylor W. Anderson

The Bulletin

A slim majority in a key group of 20 voters opposes a ballot measure that, if passed, would require genetically engineered food to be labeled in Oregon.

The group, made up of people who reflect Oregon’s voting population, voted 11-9 against the measure in a decision that will be included in the Oregon Voters’ Pamphlet. The Legislature created the citizens’ review process in 2011 after a pilot program in 2008. The panel hears expert testimony on ballot measures before the group votes on them.

Ballot Measure 92 wouldn’t require alcohol or prepared restaurant food to be labeled. It is likely to be one of the most hotly contested measures on the Oregon ballot this November.

Most states have so far been unable to enact GMO labeling laws. Sixty-four countries require the labeling of genetically engineered food, according to the Center for Food Safety.

Some panelists who voted against the measure did so because “meat and dairy products from animals that have been raised and fed with genetically engineered feed and grain will not be labeled (genetically modified).”

Panelists who favored labeling GMOs voted so because “there is mounting scientific evidence that the widespread use of genetically engineered crops designed to survive large amounts of herbicide spraying is leading to a large increase in the use of these chemicals,” according to the final report on the panel’s findings.

The groups on both sides of the measure to label GMOs — Oregon GMO Right to Know and NO on 92 Coalition — claimed wins from the panel’s vote.

“We believe a majority of Oregon voters will reach the same conclusion, once they have looked into the facts, and vote NO on 92 as well,” the group NO on 92 Coalition said in a statement.

NO on 92 hasn’t yet reported how much money the campaign against labeling GMOs has raised and will do so later this week, said campaign spokesman Pat McCormick.

Sandeep Kaushik, communications director for Oregon GMO Right to Know, said he was disappointed by the panel’s vote but said his group will use the findings to rebut “some of the false claims from the other side.”

“I don’t think (the panel’s vote) will be determinative come November,” Kaushik said. “We will be able to point to any number of other organizations that have studied this initiative and the facts and have endorsed Measure 92.”

Right to Know has reported raising more than $1.4 million in 2014.

The panel’s vote Sunday comes about a week after the group voted 14-5 to oppose a separate measure that would create an open primary system. That proposal, if passed, would allow candidates to run in nonpartisan primaries. The top two candidates would move on to the general election regardless of party affiliation. The Democratic and Republican parties of Oregon oppose that measure.

— Reporter: 406-589-4347,

tanderson@bendbulletin.com

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