Oregon’s Right to Know

“Labeling Genetically Engineered Food” could be on the ballot in November if House Bill 4100 in the Oregon Legislature is passed.

I testified in opposition to this bill and mandating labels on genetically engineered food.  Here is my testimony:

Hello, my name is Marie Bowers.  I am here in opposition of HB 4100 and mandatory labels on genetically engineered products.

I am a fifth generation farmer in Harrisburg, Oregon.  On our farm we grow grass seed, wheat, meadowfoam and this year, hopefully, turnip seed. If the slugs haven’t ate them all.

Most everything I grow is a food crop. The grass seed feeds sheep and cattle locally, nationwide and internationally.  We pasture our fields with sheep all winter long.  The wheat goes into noodles.  The meadowfoam is unique, the seed is crushed for the oil in cosmetics, and the meal or left over stuff is then used as cattle feed.  There is also the delicious honey from the bees that pollinate the meadowfoam.

We are constantly trying to expand the diversity of the farm. We try new methods, crops and technology to find what fits and makes sense for our farm.  However we are often limited by soil and climate of the area

Farmers have many different tools and methods they can utilize to produce safe and abundant food.  Genetic engineering is one of these tools.  No one makes you use one method or another it is all about choice and diversity.

Diversity is a beautiful thing, particularly in Oregon agriculture. That’s what allows Oregon farmers to grow over 230 commodities in this state.  The different methods, markets and technologies all work together for Oregon Agriculture and ultimately benefit the state’s economy.

The proponents of this bill ultimately do not support diversity. They would like to see GE crops disappear entirely, no matter the cost to family farmers and the cost to family shoppers.

The late President John F. Kennedy once said, “The farmer is the only man in our economy who buys everything at retail, sells everything at wholesale, and pays the freight both ways.”

Labeling Genetically Engineered products are costly.  The cost will passed down to the farmer.  There are costs to the implementation and enforcement of the regulations.  Someone needs to pay for that.

There is also the cost of litigation.  The bill clearly states that if a mistake is made you are wide open to litigation.  Any person supposedly aggrieved by a mislabeled food can seek legal action against whoever they feel is responsible for it.

To be clear I am not against labeling, I am against mandatory labeling.  There are many companies out there that currently label products GMO free.  If you buy Certified Organic you are guaranteeing that you avoid GMOs.   Mandating an additional label is redundant and pointless when the labels already exist.

Ultimately this bill seeks to stigmatize competition through legislation & litigation not with honest marketing.

I urge your No vote on HB 4100.  Mandating genetically engineered labels are costly, a regulatory nightmare and ultimately redundant.

A couple of things I pondered when writing my testimony:

  • The bill doesn’t mention animals fed GE products but it also doesn’t exclude or exempt them, what is to say later on someone gets mad at their steak because it was fed GE and not labeled..would a lawsuit get through?
  • What is the fiscal impact of implementing such a law? Regulations cost money.

My GMO wish list:

  • A grass that kills slugs as soon they take a bite
  • GE Wheat
  • Salmon I can eat (Deathly allergic to the stupid things)

Related Links: 

7 Comments

Filed under Agriculture, GMOs, Green Agenda, Politics

7 Responses to Oregon’s Right to Know

  1. Sarah [NurseLovesFarmer.com]

    Nicely written, Marie! Good for you for taking action, I wouldn’t expect anything less. We farm a lot of wheat on our farm and Jay figures we don’t need a GM wheat at this point. What trait would you like to see in GM wheat?

    • As a wheat farmer also I would love to see some traits that help with rust protection. We battle that a lot here in the Willamette valley and are coming up against some fungicide resistance in the future. OSU is doing some great work with breeding, but it takes a lot longer and new varieties take awhile to actually make it to the farm.

  2. Great job Marie. I am also waiting for a special GMO: I need allergen-free peanuts. I hope farmers will be allowed to grow them someday.

  3. Pingback: GMO Labeling in Oregon | nuttygrass

  4. theyenk

    Hello from the future! 🙂

    Really well written piece. I stumbled into it looking for claims of Measure 92’s “cost to family” … your piece had none but I read it anyways (the internet’s fun that way)

    I *was* Pro92 last year. Figured information is power and GMO money (soo much stupid money) was the main thing against the effort.

    I’m still for providing information to consumers; anything to better inform them of what they are saying/doing with their dollars.

    However your point about M92’s main thrust “Ultimately this bill seeks to stigmatize competition through legislation & litigation not with honest marketing.” You nailed it!

    Your powers of persuasion were enhanced by your prior suggestions of free will labeling and the Kennedy quote…jeez I’d trust you to hold my baby.

    In addition to necro’ing this old piece of the internet, stroking your ego – seriously are you like a political strategist plant paid by monsanot 🙂 – you’re piece also shook loose an idea…

    What if voluntarily labels: non-GMO, organic, pesticide free, locavore, pesticide-lite(?), low-runoff, we-recycle-our-effing-poo, etc., were treated as coupons or otherwise financially incentivised (slightly).

    Labels that indicate methods of producing crops/goods that are theoretically less stressful on the environment. A behavior that is beneficial to the State as a whole, therefore incentivised.

    My approach is flawed[1], however the idea of consumers being able to make more informed purchases is sound. Creating some benefit would attract producers/consumers, resulting in a virtuous cycle. It’d also allow Oregonians to reconnect with an old hobby sticker collecting, a product with all those above labels would surely make it to an episode of Portlandia! 😉

    In the end it’d be a way for everyone to better tell their product’s story. I’d buy a product if it was GMO’d in a way that seemed “right”. Like maybe to short cut the plant husbandry process to combat rust fungus. However, if it was GMO’d to be roundupready, *no thanks*.

    Thanks for contributing to Oregon in a multitude of ways!

    [1] Flawed, because the person buying organic produce at wholefoods doesn’t need 25cents off their broccoli. Maybe the benefit is in the form of a donation of your choosing (7 of the 8 choices being education) at the register? …except if your shopping at winco, then it’s off your total! :p

    • Marie Bowers

      Thank you very much. I once heard a speaker say “we need to get our of the commodity mindset” which I took to mean is that we need to market our products more on their good qualities, like there wasn’t a specified demand for it. We consumers feel like they are contributing to something positive I think it helps overall well being. If that makes sense. Some commodities/products are easier to do that with…

      I don’t know if this is what you were looking for on “costs to family” but Cornell did a study on the cost a GMO label would have http://dyson.cornell.edu/people/profiles/docs/LabelingNY.pdf

      Of course the hardest factor to always predict is human behavior.

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