The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA

4171.0: Tuesday, November 18, 2003 - 12:30 PM

Abstract #57622

Politics, pseudoscience and corporate cash: The defeat of Oregon's Measure 27 (requiring labelling of genetically-modified foodstuffs)

Martin T Donohoe, MD, FACP, Senior Scholar, Center for Ethics in Health Care, Oregon Health and Science University, 3718 Rivers Edge Drive, Lake Oswego, OR 97034, 503/819-6979,

Oregon's Measure 27, defeated 73% to 27% on the November, 2002 ballot, called for the labeling of genetically-engineered (GE) foods sold wholesale or retail. Risks of GE foods include: allergies and toxicities from new proteins entering the food supply; altered nutritional value of foodstuffs; transfer of antibiotic resistance genes to human pathogens; increased pesticide use; interspecies gene transfer, creating herbicide-resistant “superweeds”; non-target insects dying from exposure to pesticide-resistant crops, with ripple effects on other organisms; GE plants and animals interbreeding with and spreading novel genes into wild populations; GE plants out-competing (or driving to extinction) wild varieties or invading neighboring farms; GE plants adversely altering soil quality; decreased agricultural biodiversity; and corporate control of agriculture, with farmers transmogrified into “bioserfs.” Measure 27’s lopsided defeat was surprising, since polls show that approximately 90% of U.S. citizens favor labeling. The European Union, Japan, China and other countries require labeling; many nations ban the import of GE foods. Opponents of the measure frightened the public with pseudoscientific misinformation; unfounded fears of a complicated bureaucracy and much higher food prices; and unsubstantiated claims of economic harm to farmers. Opponents outspent proponents $5.3 million to $200,000. Most opposition funding came from out-of-state corporations like Monsanto, Dupont, and others with a vested interest in spreading misinformation to keep the public ignorant of the adverse consequences of their profit-driven manipulation of the world’s food supply. This session will discuss tactics which might facilitate the passage of future labeling laws.

Learning Objectives:

Keywords: Food Safety, Public Health Legislation

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

The Politics of Food: The American Diet and Food Safety

The 131st Annual Meeting (November 15-19, 2003) of APHA