The Citizens’ Initiative Review, which uses a balanced panel of citizen jurors to evaluate and inform voters about state ballot measures, has completed its Colorado trial run on Proposition 105, which would require labeling on genetically modified food.
The panel’s results suggests that Prop. 105 could be in for a real squeaker. Eleven of the 20 panelists embraced arguments in favor of its passage, while nine favored arguments opposed.
Many of the panelists praised the CIR process, which included 3 1/2 days of deliberations at CU-Denver, involving hearing from both sides of the argument and neutral experts.
“I came into this process thinking I knew exactly how I felt about this issue, and it turns out I had a lot to learn,” said Bill Wright, a panelist from Parker, in a released statement. “Working through this process I have changed my mind on some of the issues related to GMO labeling, but more importantly, I’ve learned that this process isn’t about how I feel personally. It’s about determining as a group what information is most relevant to Colorado voters as they make their voting decisions on this initiative.”
The CIR process is state law in Oregon, with each ballot initiative there receiving the citizens’ work-up. The process was championed in Oregon by the nonprofit Healthy Democracy, which helped conduct the Colorado trial run, as well as one taking place in Arizona.
After all was said and done, a super-majority of the panel agreed on 10 statements of fact, including this one: “Approximately two-third of the foods and beverages we buy and consume would be exempt. Meat and dairy products would be exempt even if they come from animals raised on GMO feed and grain. All alcoholic beverages, food for immediate consumption served in restaurants and other institutions would also be exempt, even if they contain GMO ingredients.”
So, two-thirds of foods and beverages will be exempt from the law, even if it passes, the panel concluded.
The panelists favoring Prop. 105’s passage liked the idea that labeling genetically engineered foods would “provide basic information to let Coloradans make more informed buying decisions, offering more choice and control over the transparency of their food purchasing decisions.”
Those opposed found resonance in the argument that 105 would impact Colorado “farmers and food producers, potentially increasing costs and putting our farmers and businesses at a competitive disadvantage.” They also didn’t think the “genetically engineered” labels would be accurate across the board.
The Citizens’ Initiative Review will not appear in the Colorado election Blue Book, as that would require a change by the legislature. But you can read all about it here.