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Champion of Food Labeling Laws Visits Oregon

PHOTO: This image, from a presentation by Michael Hansen of Consumer Reports, shows the label of a candy bar sold in Europe, where food companies already are required to label their genetically-engineered ingredients. Photo courtesy Michael Hansen.
PHOTO: This image, from a presentation by Michael Hansen of Consumer Reports, shows the label of a candy bar sold in Europe, where food companies already are required to label their genetically-engineered ingredients. Photo courtesy Michael Hansen.
September 10, 2014

MEDFORD, Ore. - Backers of Measure 92, to require labeling of genetically-engineered ingredients in foods sold in Oregon, are getting some help this week from one of the "big guns" in the food labeling debate nationwide.

Michael Hansen, senior scientist for Consumer Reports, is in Oregon making several stops to debunk what he calls "common myths" from food processors and supermarket chains opposing the ballot measure.

Hansen says mentioning that some ingredients are genetically modified isn't any more burdensome or expensive for companies than other details now required on a food label.

"You have to label milk whether it's been homogenized or not," Hansen says. "You have to label juices whether they've been frozen, or from concentrate or fresh-squeezed. Fish, you have to label whether they're wild-caught or farm-raised. We have country-of-origin labeling. Most importantly, look at irradiation labeling."

More than 60 countries, adds Hansen, already require genetically-engineered ingredient labeling on foods. Opponents of mandatory labeling have warned it could raise food prices and say there isn't sufficient evidence these ingredients need to be labeled.

Hansen spent Tuesday in Medford, and visits Eugene, Salem and Portland this week.

Despite similar but unsuccessful GE labeling pushes in California and Washington, Hansen believes Oregon's Measure 92 vote in November is getting so much attention because it could be the nation's game changer on this topic.

"If this gets passed in Oregon, I think it's only a short period of time before there would be a national decision made," Hansen says. "Even though the industry is spending huge sums of money, they're just barely winning."

Legislatures in three states have passed these labeling laws, but Oregon would be the first to pass it by voter initiative. This year, 35 bills on the topic were introduced in 20 states in response to growing consumer interest.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR