For several days this week, a panel of twenty Colorado voters gathered at the University of Colorado Denver to conduct the first Colorado Citizens' Initiative Review of a ballot proposal -- Proposition 105, which would require product labeling for GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. And yesterday they delivered a one-page Citizen's Statement that could prove useful for other Colorado voters trying to come to grips with the controversial proposal. See also: GMO Labeling Initiative Will Get a Healthy Study from Citizen's Initiative
"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," says Bill Wright, a panelist from Parker. "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."
Wright and the other panelists had all expressed interest in working on the review, organized by the nonprofit Healthy Democracy, which conducted its first review in Oregon in 2007; they were selected at random, then spent the next three-and-a-half days listening to proponents and opponents, as well as experts on the issue, before preparing their report.
"The Citizens' Initiative Review process allows a subset of voters to really analyze issues put before us on the ballot," added Ben Hamilton, a panelist from Denver. "It allows us to really take the time to delve into both sides and offer voters information that is at least similar to what they would want to see in making their decisions."
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And what did the panel decide? Like the rest of Colorado, the panelists were split on the issue -- although definitely better educated on the topic than most of this state's residents. Eleven of the twenty ultimately supported a statement in favor of the proposal, pointing out that 65 countries already require such labeling, as well as fifteen that are top export markets for Colorado; nine signed on to a statement in opposition, citing increased costs to farmers as well as the vagueness of the labels. But they all managed to agree on certain points, which you can read at CIRColorado.org.