GMO labeling measure dies on the vine

(Photo/Vermario, Flickr)

In the United States, there is only one state that has successfully passed a law requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods — Vermont. And Tuesday’s results won’t change that fact: Colorado’s Proposition 105 fell by a margin of 68 percent to 32 percent, with 81 percent of precincts reporting.But worldwide, 64 countries have passed laws mandating GMO labeling, including such unexpected participants as Russia and China.So what’s the problem here?

It doesn’t seem unreasonable that people want to know what they’re eating — whether their kids have food allergies, or their doctors have restricted their diets, or they just want to make more informed choices. Proposition 105 aimed to address that by requiring any prepackaged, processed food or raw agricultural commodity that has been genetically modified to include the label: “Produced with genetic engineering.” Pretty simple, and yet so improbable.

“By voting down prop 105 by  huge margin, Colorado voters delivered a resounding message against a mandatory labeling law that would have led to mis-information, inconsistencies and higher costs for consumers,” said Claire Parker, spokeswoman for the Coalition for Safe Affordable Food, a group comprised of 30 members of the agricultural business including soybean and corn growers. “Americans deserve a consistent national labeling standard that is based on science, not scare tactics.”

Improbable because big corporations such as Monsanto, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and others poured millions into Colorado’s anti-labeling PAC, No on 105, which raised more than $12 million in the fight. They have much to lose in this battle, as a majority of their products rely on genetically engineered foods. But large corporations don’t elicit much sympathy these days, so instead they funded a very successful ad campaign featuring struggling Colorado farmers in their fields, talking about how the mandate could kill their farms by forcing them to change their production processes at crippling costs. They also maintain that it will result in higher grocery costs for struggling families. What good Coloradan wants to cause hardship for their neighbors?On the other side, supporters of 105 raised a total of $625,000 — David and Goliath, with a different outcome. Though big players such as Whole Foods, Chipotle and Hain Celestial Foods publicly backed the measure, it was not nearly enough, and Tuesday’s vote reflected that reality.

Similar labeling measures failed in California in 2012 and Washington in 2013. As of May 14, there were 84 bills in 29 states regarding the labeling of GMOs.

An award-winning journalist who has worked at The Denver Post, The Hartford Courant and other metro newspapers, Ingrid currently works in marketing and web design in Boulder.