Measure 92: Lots of airy assertions

Balloting will start in mid-October on candidates and initiatives including M92.

Balloting will start in mid-October on candidates and initiatives including M92.

There ought to be a law against ballot initiatives involving scientific fields -- such a genetic engineering -- which only one in a thousand voters knows anything about. Oregon Measure 92 is one such proposal, and on Nov. 4 it will have been decided  based on emotion alone. That can't be a good thing.

Wise voters turn down anything they have questions about or don't completely understand. That applies to Measure 92. The measure would require food sold in Oregon to be labeled if it contains more than a tiny amount of material produced through genetic engineering such as gene splicing. Judging by the ads, some farmers are for it but farm organizations are against it.

Opponents say it will add to the price of food, while backers say it won't. But it stands to reason that if commercial food sold in Oregon requires even one extra step -- such as researching the genetics of ingredients and then applying a label -- it has to cost at least a little more than if this work was not required.

The measure  is full of unsupported "findings" that may or may not be true, such as: "The genetic engineering of plants and animals often causes unintended consequences." Really? How often? Such airy assertions have no place in a state law.

Here I am, typing while also having a cheese sandwhich. According to the label, the cheese was made of pasteurized milk, cheese culture, salt and enzymes. "Contains milk," it says. That's nice, but does anybody care whether the milk came from genetically enhanced cows?

The bread label is longer, starting with unbleached enriched flour (which is made up of wheat flour, barley malt, niacin and some other stuff), and continuing with water, cracked wheat, sugar, honey, yeast and several things with long names. Then the warning: "Contains wheat, soy."

Measure 92 claims that "93 percent of all soy grown in the U.S. was engineered to be herbicide resistant," which its authors think is terrible. So in effect they already have their labeling, at least where this kind of bread is concerned. But as for me, I don't care about the nature of the soy in my bread. I'm pretty sure that if the soy was making people sick or stunted in some way, it would have become apparent by now. I do care about not cluttering the law books with windy editorials against food technology.

The authors say one purpose of the bill is to allow people to make "informed decisions for personal, religious, moral, cultural, or ethical reasons." When making food laws for the state, can we please leave religion to one side? (hh)

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