Oregon's 'Yes on 92' GMO labeling supporters are just 809 votes from winning, forcing a recount in which they are confident of prevailing - despite being hugely outspent by a corporate 'no' campaign that received nearly $5 million from Monsanto alone.
Measure 92, Oregon's food labeling initiative for GMO ingredients, will go to an automatic recount after the difference in vote between 'yes' and 'no' votes narrowed to just 809 with all votes counted.
The count has been been going on continuously since the 4th November election. Opponents were vocal in calling the vote in their favor just a day after the election, but as more votes came in from all 36 counties, the gap narrowed to 0.06% - well under the recount trigger level of 0.2%.
"Regardless of what the final outcome of this race is, this is a very encouraging sign for those of us who support labeling of genetically engineered foods", said Sandeep Kaushik, a spokesman for the 'Yes on Measure 92' campaign promoting the measure.
"We've known since election night that this race is too close to call. Instead of throwing in the towel when we trailed narrowly in the first vote counts, the 'Yes on Measure 92' campaign went to work. We activated our campaign staff and hundreds of volunteers over the last week to ensure that every possible valid vote is counted.
"Our efforts have led in recent days to thousands of Oregon voters correcting signature issues so that their valid ballots can be counted and their voices heard in this election."
Big food spent $20 million fighting Measure 92
The incredibly narrow race comes despite a $20 million campaign from the opposition led by big food and chemical companies. The previous record for spending on an Oregon ballot initiative was $12 million for both sides combined.
Monsanto donated nearly $5 million, DuPont Pioneer $4.5 million, Dow AgroSciences over a $1.1 million, with Pepsi and Coke, who use sugar and corn genetically engineered to be resistant to herbicides in their products, combining for over $3.5 million.
On the other side the Yes campaign raised around $6 million, $1 million of which came from the Centre for Food Safety's political arm, the CFS Action Fund, which also helped to mobilize thousands of volunteers in Oregon and across the country.
CFS previously worked with and provided legal and grassroots support to campaigns in Oregon to ban the planting of GE crops in two Oregon counties, and worked with the State Senate to ban GE canola in the Willamette Valley until 2019.
"Thanks to the tireless efforts of on the ground organizers, and despite an aggressive and expensive opposition campaign, GE food labeling is still alive in Oregon", said CFS director Andrew Kimbrell. "The power and tenacity of the Food Movement has been on full display here in Oregon."
A fourth state to require GMO labelling?
If the 'yes' votes are victorious on the recount, Oregon would be the fourth US state to require GE labeling.
Connecticut and Maine each passed GE labeling laws this past spring, but both bills include a trigger clause requiring several other states to also pass labeling bills before the new laws can be implemented. Vermont was the first state to pass a no-strings-attached labeling law, set to go into effect in 2016.
In Colorado, where a similar ballot initiative was also up for a vote, the anti-labeling side won the vote after spending over $16 million, hugely outspending the 'Yes on 105 campaign'.
In all, companies funding anti-labeling campaigns have spent over $100 million in just four states - California, Washington, Oregon and Colorado.
In 2013, Rep. Peter DeFazio and Sen. Barbara Boxer introduced the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act (H.R. 1699/S. 809) to make GE food labeling mandatory across the country.
Supported by 63 Representatives and 17 Senators, the bill directs the Food and Drug Administration to use its authority to enact a federal, mandatory GE labeling policy that would guarantee all Americans the right to know.
"We are optimistic that when the recount is complete Measure 92 will prevail", said Kaushik. "But we want to be clear about one thing: regardless of the final outcome of the mandatory recount, the labeling issue is not going away.
"This movement continues to grow and build support across this state and around the country, and that growth will continue."
This story was originally published on The Ecologist.