On November 6, 2014, voters in Oregon and in Colorado rejected ballot initiatives that would have required food labels to disclose the presence of genetically modified organisms (“GMOs”). The ballot initiative in Colorado was defeated soundly in a 2 to 1 victory. On the other hand, the Oregon initiative barely failed to pass, garnering the support of 49.1% of voters.
Colorado and Oregon were slated to follow Vermont in becoming the second and third states with active GMO-labeling laws. Vermont became the first state to officially require mandatory labeling of GMO foods, but the new law is now embroiled in litigation. Recent GMO-labeling ballot initiatives in California and Washington narrowly failed to pass. GMO-labeling laws in Maine and Connecticut passed but will not be effective until other states join the GMO-labeling movement.
Instead, Hawaii shows signs of becoming the next state to pass GMO-labeling laws. On November 6, 2014, voters in Maui voted to ban the cultivation of certain GMOs until further research alleviates safety concerns. A long-time GMO-labeling battleground, proponents of GMO-labeling laws have found the support in Hawaii that is somewhat lacking in the rest of the United States.
With such mixed results, whether food labels must disclose the use of GMOs will continue to be a much-debated issue. Proponents of GMO-labeling laws claim the laws are necessary to protect both the environment and the public health. Opponents of such laws, however, claim that GMO-labeling laws will only stymie technological growth and lessen the food supply. Multiple bi-partisan, federal bills supporting different sides have been introduced in Congress. For now, each side is likely to remain entrenched.