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Friday, October 25, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Industry fights Oregon initiative on genetically modified food

The Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. — The food industry has raised more than $5 million in its efforts to defeat a Nov. 5 ballot measure that would make Oregon the first state to mandate labeling of genetically engineered food.

A second round of campaign-finance reports filed yesterday with the Secretary of State's Office showed donations of nearly $5.1 million and spending of $4.5 million against Measure 27.

The reports cover contributions and spending in the 30 days ending last Sunday. Backers of the initiative measure reported raising $194,000.

Donors against the measure are a who's who of the nation's big food and beverage companies: $161,000 from Kraft Foods, $52,000 from Campbell's Soup, $38,000 from Pepsi and $35,000 from the National Soft Drink Association.

Foes of the measure have invested heavily in television advertising, with the pitch that there are already enough regulations and the proposal would pile on mounds of expensive red tape.

Supporters argue that consumers have a right to know about genetic modifications.

Most of the money raised to fight the measure, $3.7 million, came from CropLife International of Brussels, Belgium, which is composed of major genetic-food-engineering companies.

The largest amount chipped in by a supporter of the measure was a $36,000 loan from Mel Bankoff, operator of Emerald Valley Kitchen, a Eugene food producer.

Spending against Measure 27 dwarfed outlays for or against any other measure on the ballot.

The insurance industry has spent more than $1 million fighting Measure 23, which would create a universal health-care plan for all Oregonians funded by an income-tax increase and a payroll tax on employers.

Major donations to the opposition group, the Coalition Against Unhealthy Taxes, include $50,000 each from State Farm Insurance and Premera Blue Cross.

Backers of that initiative reported raising $37,000.

Supporters of a measure to outlaw paying initiative-petition circulators by the signature have raised $885,000, largely from organized labor.

The National Education Association (NEA) donated $100,000 in the most recent reporting period, and the Oregon Public Employees Union contributed $85,000.

Aloha businessman Loren Parks, a frequent big contributor to initiative causes, has donated $600,000 in an effort to pass measures 21 and 22, which would change the way judges are elected.

A political committee working to defeat the measures, funded mostly by judges and lawyers, has raised $180,000 and spent $87,000.

Supporters of boosting the state's minimum wage are outspending opponents.

A largely labor-funded coalition backing Measure 25 has raised $215,000 and spent $179,000. The NEA and the Oregon Education Association donated a total of $20,000, as did Oregon Action, a Portland-based advocacy group for low-income people.

Save Oregon Jobs, opposing the measure, has raised $149,000 and spent $102,000. The biggest donation was $40,000 from the Oregon Association of Nurserymen, followed by $20,000 from Burger King.

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