PORTLAND, OR (AP)--A $5 million campaign financed largely by the biotechnology industry buried an initiative to make Oregon the first state to label genetically modified foods, The Associated Press reported Nov. 6.
With 54% of precincts counted, Measure 27 was being defeated with 568,434 "no" votes, or 73%, to 212,205 "yes" votes, or 27%.
"Overall the message that resonated most with voters was these labels would be unnecessary, expensive and misleading," said Pat McCormick, a Portland public relations executive who ran the campaign against Measure 27.
Donna Harris, a Portland mother of two and former hospital secretary whose desire to find a baby formula free of genetically altered ingredients led to the initiative, said she would bring the issue back again in 2004 and form a political action committee to help other states do the same.
"Corporations just succeeded in keeping information away from consumers in Oregon, but only for a short period of time," Harris said. "Our volunteers are jazzed about the possibility of another campaign.
"I felt like we are just a spark that has ignited a whole movement across this nation," she added. "It's disturbing to see corporations spend that much money just because consumers want to know what's in the food they're eating."
At a ballot drop box in downtown Portland, many voters ranked Measure 27 as the most important issue on the ballot.
"I think it could be a big problem, and I feel the federal government should be obligated to regulate it," said special education teacher Derek Lafon. "But you have to start somewhere, and I'd be fine at the state level."
Attorney Walk Karnstein agreed the federal government should regulate food, adding that Measure 27 supporters did not allay his fears about increasing food costs.