At the start of the year, it looked like Colorado's November ballot might overflow with citizen initiatives. That flood became a trickle; there will likely be only four to consider on November 4. But one of those, Initiative 48, which would require mandatory GMO labeling, could create plenty of controversy all on its own. And Healthy Democracy, a nonpartisan group dedicated to elevating voter awareness, wants to make sure Colorado residents have a healthy amount of information on the measure. See also: Initiative #48 Would Require Labels on Genetically Modified Food
In 2007, Healthy Democracy ran its first Citizen Initiative Review, designed to supply voters comprehensive information about one of the initiatives on that year's ballot. Since then the group has refined and developed the CIR process, and it will be implementing it for the first time in Colorado this year.
"Voters are bombarded by campaign messaging," says Brenda Morrison, project director for the Colorado CIR. "They're looking for independent, unbiased ways to make decisions."
The CIR is a panel of twenty active voters that review an initiative for three days, and then create a comprehensive statement about the measure for other voters to review. In order to get a diverse group of people for the panel, Healthy Democracy mails 5,000 informational packets to active voters chosen at random from the voter registration list. Anyone who gets a packet and is interested in participating can send back a response card; Healthy Democracy will choose its panels from those who respond.
Healthy Democracy selected Initiative 48 for the first Colorado CIR. Although 48 has not yet been certified by the Secretary of State's office, supporters turned in almost twice as many signatures required, so the odds are good it will be on the November ballot.
And Healthy Democracy is proceeding. On September 7, the twenty-voter panel will meet to hear the pros and cons of initiative 48. Supporters and proponents can send in reference sheets stating their positions. In previous reviews, Healthy Democracy allowed campaign representatives to speak -- but after one-too-many lobbyists with an impressive Powerpoint made the review board members feel like they were being sold a car, not informed about a measure, the process was changed.
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Instead, a nonpartisan review board will invite a group of experts to address the panel. After their presentations and subsequent discussions, the group will create a comprehensive report regarding Initiative 48 called the Citizens' Statement; that should be released September 10.
Here's the wording of Initiative 48:
Shall there be a change to the Colorado Revised Statutes concerning labeling of genetically modified food; and, in connection therewith, requiring food that has been genetically modified or treated with genetically modified material to be labeled, "Produced With Genetic Engineering" starting on July 1, 2016; exempting some foods including but not limited to food from animals that are not genetically modified but have been fed or injected with genetically modified food or drugs, certain food that is not packaged for retail sale and is intended for immediate human consumption, alcoholic beverages, food for animals, and medically prescribed food; requiring the Colorado department of public health and environment to regulate the labeling of genetically modified food; and specifying that no private right of action is created for failure to conform to the labeling requirements?
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