Oregon’s Right to Know Measure 92 will go down in the history books for two reasons; the closeness of the count and the record breaking funds that fueled the opposition. And, even though the media called “defeat” shortly after election night, Oregonians kept counting. As ballots from different counties rolled in, the margin narrowed. Then 13,000 challenged ballots were discovered with signatures on the envelopes that didn’t match the voter’s registration cards. Those needed to be rectified. The margin narrowed and as of this writing the final unofficial results show the GMO labeling initiative failed by only 812 votes out of 1.5 million ballots!
This split in votes is so close it will now trigger an automatic recount. The next step is for Secretary of State Kate Brown to certify the results, which could be as early as December 1. That certification will set off a recount that could last for two more weeks before the official final results are tallied.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
It is important to remember that we got here despite $20 million of deceptive ads and campaigns from the opposition led by big food and chemical companies. This is the most ever spent on an Oregon ballot initiative. The previous record for spending on an Oregon ballot initiative was $12 million for both sides combined! This speaks volumes on how much grassroots power we have in the face of big companies literally buying elections.
Monsanto donated nearly $5 million; DuPont & Pioneer together gave $4.5 million, Dow AgroSciences over $1.1 million. Pepsi and Coke, who use sugar and corn genetically engineered to be resistant to herbicides in their products, ponied up over $3.5 million combined. And all that cash may not have been enough to defeat the will of the people!
The Yes on 92 organizers have been tireless in their pursuit of truth and transparency. Never have I witnessed such a tenacious and dedicated cast of characters who are unflagging in their communications, collaboration and fundraising. Many companies, consumer groups and individuals have responded with money and volunteer time. We have witnessed a colossal grass roots effort that has already won a victory of sheer will and passion for truth!
WHAT DO WE DO NOW?
Starting in early December, election officials in each of Oregon’s 36 counties will begin the process of recounting all of the ballots cast in this election. The experts say that hand recounts tend to add votes to the democratic or progressive side because, for whatever reason, those ballots are often the ones compromised. Let the recount begin in earnest while the Yes on 92 campaign is already mobilizing and coordinating. This tireless team is amassing an army of volunteers to make sure every election office is covered and every vote is properly counted.
Recounting is going to cost real money—again. Please don’t be tireless with your contributions! They need to raise $150,000 by the time the recount starts in early December to fully deploy the emergency recount response team of election observers, recount experts and attorneys across Oregon. Contribute here to assure that GMO labeling can become a reality in this important state.
Rest assured that the opposition is doing the same to fund a defeat.
WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?
History shows that recounts rarely result in a reversal of the initial findings. But, both sides agree that no matter what this recount decides the battle will continue in Congress as well as in more states. Vermont passed a GMO labeling law last year and is now fighting a food industry court challenge. If Oregon’s Right to Know does become a reality the companies that funded the opposition will surely challenge it in the courts, costing yet more money and potentially years of litigation.
The fight for food transparency is far from over. The recount is a signal to Congressional leaders that they should heed the desires of the consumer. There is an insidious piece of legislation introduced last spring by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) that would block our right to know permanently and it’s gaining steam in some Congressional circles. This bill was christened the “Deny Americans the Right-to-Know” or DARK act. This pernicious bill would prevent states from adopting GMO labeling laws that have gained widespread support over the last two years. It calls for mandatory federal voluntary labeling, which is meaningless because it is what we have now. No one will voluntarily label products with GMO’s, especially not in Oregon. It is critical that we tell Congress not to support this bill.
As we keep our eyes and pocketbooks on Oregon you can join the over 1.3 million people who have urged the FDA to require mandatory labeling. The Just Label It campaign makes it as easy as a click.
This battle has just begun.