Hope: It’s in the numbers . . .

Label GMOs

Adapted from Berkshire Organics Newsletter

A lot can happen in a month.  In the weeks leading up to the November election, many were anxious to see whether voters would show support of GMO labeling laws.  In the weeks following, many have continued to anxiously await a final tally in Oregon.  This has not only been the costliest fight so far for GMO labeling, it is also the closest vote ever recorded on the issue.  The amazing thing is that we still don’t know the outcome.  With an official loss on Measure 92 by only 812 votes (out of 1,506,144), this incredibly close race prompted an automatic recount.  Scheduled to be completed by December 12, this recount will be conducted by certified officials and overseen by electors on both sides of the vote.  While clean food advocates around the world wait for the final results, it’s safe to say that whether Measure 92 passes or not, the numbers alone are enough to give us hope.

For many, this hope was present well before Oregon declared a recount.  After polls closed, the numbers were so close that the OR Right to Know campaign began an unprecedented movement to get every possible vote.  Volunteers from all over the country got busy reaching out to those 13,000 who had not been counted because of signature issues, and the development of a Facebook App to alert friends if their vote was missing led to over 6000 downloads.  Clearly, a great many people still feel strongly that their vote counts for something, and are holding out hope for a win.  Recount aside, there’s also hope to be found in some of the other numbers connected to the fight to label GMOs in OR.  For instance, with 100% of the $16 million in donations to the “NO on 92” side coming from corporations with a major stake in keeping GMOs in and labels off of food, the “YES on 92” campaign showed the world just how powerful the underdog could be.  In total, the YES side raised over $7 million, with about half coming from corporations, and the remainder from small businesses, consumers, and farmers.

This hope can also been seen in Hawaii, where the November election had just over 50% of residents (a difference of 1077 people) in Maui voting for a moratorium on GMO planting in the county.  Just days after the vote, however, a federal judge granted a preliminary injunction in a lawsuit filed by Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, preventing the initiative from taking effect until the court considers its legal merits further.  Almost immediately, there was a counter-suit seeking “declaratory relief to assure transparency and the proper implementation” of the initiative, and it was filed by 5 county residents against both Monsanto and Dow.  Awesome.

As Republicans take control of the Senate and expand their control of the House in 2015, it will be interesting to see what congressional changes develop around GMOs.  For instance, if the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act (industry-endorsed, of course) starts to see support, it would preclude state mandated labeling laws by instituting voluntary GMO labeling nationwide.  It’s worth remembering, however, that numbers don’t lie.  The incredibly close margins & subsequent recount in OR, the huge contributions from farmers, consumers, and small businesses (compared to the corporate backing of the NO on 92 campaign), and the five individuals currently in a lawsuit against two of the biggest Agro-businesses on the planet are all reminders that the movement is gaining momentum, and there is hope still for this to come to fruition.



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