Voters won't see GMO initiative on November's ballot - East Valley Tribune: Politics

Voters won't see GMO initiative on November's ballot

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Posted: Thursday, July 3, 2014 7:30 am

Arizona is not going to take center stage this year in the battle over genetically modified foods.

Jared Keen, chairman of Right to Know Arizona, conceded he is not going to have anywhere near the 172,809 valid signatures needed by the July 3 deadline to put the issue of labeling on the November ballot. Keen said his all-volunteer organization was able to gather perhaps only half of that total.

The measure would have required that any food products which contain genetically modified food or ingredients would have to be labeled “contains genetically modified ingredients.” It also would have mandated a similar label on meat products from animals that had been fed genetically modified foods, as well as labeling on animals which have been genetically modified.

Keen said he had been hoping for more financial support for his petition drive from national organizations which have fought this issue in other states. But even if he got the signatures to qualify for the ballot, that would just be the beginning of the need for cash.

In 2012, the agribusiness giant Monsanto, which produces and sells many of the genetically modified seeds for crops that wind up in the food supply, contributed more than $7 million to beat back a similar measure in California.

There will, however, be other things for voters to decide in November.

Proposition 122 asks voters to put a provision in the Arizona Constitution to allow resident to “reject a federal action that the people determine violates the United States Constitution.” A nearly identical measure on the 2012 ballot failed by a 2-1 margin.

But this time lawmakers added language to take the plan even further. If approved, the measure would prohibit the state and local government from using their employees or finance resources to enforce, administer or cooperate with any federal action or program they determine is not “consistent with the Constitution.”

While acknowledging that the U.S. Constitution is “the supreme law of the land to which all government, state and federal, is subject,” Proposition 122 it also says that Arizona may exercise its sovereign authority to prohibit the use of state and local personnel or resources “to enforce, administer or cooperate" with any specific, designated federal action or program.”

Sen. Chester Crandell, R-Heber, who crafted the measure, said it simply reflects the system of government in the United States. He said the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled the U.S. Constitution is the limit on federal power, not on the power of the states.

The 2013 Senate vote to put the issue to voters this November came over the objections of Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix.

“If we want to get away from ‘The Daily Show’ and all the national-type television shows that keep mocking Arizona, we must put an end to stuff like this,” he said.

Proposition 303 would allow — but not require — drug manufacturers to provide certain experimental drugs to terminally ill patients even though they have not yet been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Rep. Phil Lovas, R-Peoria, said that patients who have no other options deserve a chance to try to save their own lives. During legislative debate, he cited the “Dallas Buyers Club,” a movie that shows how terminally ill AIDS patients in the 1980s had to go outside the country to find the medications to save their lives.

Voters also will get a chance to decide if lawmakers get a pay hike. Proposition 304 would increase the salary of legislators by $11,000 a year, to $35,000.

As to what didn't make the ballot, the measure to label GMO products is not the only one that appears to have fallen by the wayside.

A petition drive to limit the growth of city and county budgets until their pension plans are better funded appears to have evaporated, along with a measure to limit the ability of unions to have their dues deducted from members' paychecks.

Proponents of a measure to put the question of legalizing same-sex weddings on the 2014 ballot abandoned those plans in favor of waiting until 2016 when a presidential election might improve voter turnout.

And a bid to ask voters to outlaw putting tolls on existing roads never really got off the ground.

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