After an official recount, Oregon’s Secretary of State announced on December 16 that Measure 92 to require mandatory labeling of GMO foods in the state was defeated by a razor-thin margin of 837 votes out of a total 1.5 million votes cast. The Yes campaign’s last-ditch legal challenge to approve 4,600 invalidated ballots due to signature discrepancies was rejected on December 9 by a Multnomah County Judge, sealing the defeat of the measure. The narrow defeat came as anti-labeling interests, including Monsanto, DuPont, Conagra and others, outspent the pro-labeling side by more than two to one, pumping nearly $21 million into the state to defeat the bill, while the pro-GMO labeling campaign raised more than $9 million.
Additionally, while they were pouring millions into the No on 92 campaign, out of state agribusiness companies and trade groups including Monsanto, Dupont, Coca-Cola, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and others contributed $80,000 to Oregon legislators’ campaigns and to Oregon political action committees, reported the Statesman Journal.
“The initiative was about a lot of things – consumers’ right to know what’s in their food, voter turnout, the recount, mismatched signatures, and the continuing controversy over the safety of genetically engineered food. But more than anything else, Measure 92 was about money,” he said. “Only one actual human being donated more than $100 to the No campaign. In contrast, over 17,900 individuals contributed to the Yes campaign.”
The Oregon GMO labeling bill would have required labels on product packaging, bins and shipping containers of genetically modified foods and foods made with genetically modified ingredients. Measure 92’s failure follows voter rejections, also by narrow margins, in California in 2012 and Washington in 2013, and by a wider margin in Colorado in 2014, after being vastly outspent by the anti-labeling side in each of these campaigns.
Supporters of the Oregon measure conceded defeat on December 11, but pledged to keep fighting for GMO labeling. "We draw strength from the fact that we came so achingly close to winning this vote," the Yes on 92 Campaign said. "We will continue working until Oregonians and all Americans – like the residents of 64 other countries around the globe – have the information they need to make informed choices about the food that they feed their families."