Prop 105 generates debate at state, local level
Prop 105 wording
“Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning labeling of genetically modified food; and, in connection therewith, requiring food that has been genetically modified or treated with genetically modified material to be labeled, ‘Produced With Genetic Engineering’ starting on July 1, 2016; exempting some foods including but not limited to food from animals that are not genetically modified but have been fed or injected with genetically modified food or drugs, certain food that is not packaged for retail sale and is intended for immediate human consumption, alcoholic beverages, food for animals, and medically prescribed food; requiring the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to regulate the labeling of genetically modified food; and specifying that no private right of action is created for failure to conform to the labeling requirements?”
EAGLE COUNTY — A lawsuit against Vermont’s first-in-the-nation law requiring genetically modified food to be labeled hasn’t daunted supporters of Colorado Proposition 105, but as Election Day draws closer and ballots arrive in the mail, it remains controversial on both a state and local level.
At a debate earlier in the week in Glenwood Springs, Right to Know Colorado’s Gary Gilman and No on Proposition 105’s Chad Vorthmann went back and forth on some of the issue’s key points.
Gilman called the proposition “a reasonable first step” in letting consumers know what’s in their food. He noted that genetically modified organisms have been part of the food supply for two decades with relatively little domestic oversight, while 64 countries including all members of the European Union have enacted labeling requirements.
Vorthmann sees the initiative as misleading because it doesn’t apply to large categories of food including meat, dairy, alcohol and food served at restaurants.
“I don’t disagree that consumers have a right to know, but they have right to know accurate information,” he asserted.
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According to Gilman, Colorado law prevents a ballot question with across-the-board labeling. Proponents opted for the largest available category, which covers packaged foods and produce, and accounts for roughly 70 percent of the items in grocery stores. The proposition is also statutory, not constitutional, allowing changes later.
The pair further disagreed on the potential cost to farmers, stores and consumers. Gilman cited a Consumers Union estimate that the labeling would increase annual grocery bills by just over $2 per person. Vorthmann thinks the trickle-down impact will be more like $400.
“Labeling is the cheap part. The true costs come in the manufacturing of food and goods,” he said.
No on Proposition 105 believes Colorado growers would be at a competitive disadvantage for exports to other states. The group favors voluntary labeling standards like USDA Organic and the Non-GMO Project.
Right to Know Colorado believes that other states will soon follow suit in requiring labeling and sees Colorado as a natural state to lead the charge for health and the environment.
Numerous other organizations have weighed in on Proposition 105. Alfalfa’s Market, Dr. Bronner’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill, The Hain Celestial Group, Whole Foods Market and the Boulder Daily Camera have come out in favor while Colorado Cattlemen’s Association, Colorado Farm Bureau, Colorado Bioscience Association, Club 20, Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce and Denver Post have voiced opposition.
Kroger, the nation’s largest grocer and owner of City Market, declined to take a position.
“We believe that is an issue for the voters of Colorado to decide,” said Kelli McGannon, spokeswoman for City Market. “We are of course following the issue closely.”
Most locals agreed that the initiative isn’t perfect, but differed on whether it was worth pursuing anyway.
“I’m not worried about what it’s going to cost me as a small organic producer. I’m concerned about the health of the American people,” said Brook Le Van, founder and director of Sustainable Settings in Carbondale. “Obviously it’s not going far enough, but we’re going up against major industry and a lot of money. If this is all we can get right now, it’s great.”
Garfield County Commissioner and organic farmer John Martin doesn’t agree.
“We need to send it back to the drawing board and come up with a true solution,” he said. “Pretty typically regulations are geared toward the large producer, which means it’s very expensive to fulfill them. The small guys are the ones who are really going to get hurt.”
If the issue comes down to campaign funding, the proposition probably won’t fare well. Campaign finance data from the Secretary of State records show $441,873.68 in 2014 contributions to Right to Know Colorado, while No on Proposition 105 Coalition boasts $11,241,353 over the same period.