GMO-free labeling
GMO lableing was a ballot initiative in Oregon and  Colorado.

“The people have spoken, but it will take a while to determine exactly what they said.” — Bill Clinton

After viewing scores of negative political ads during these most recent political campaigns, I am thrilled that mindless commercials about upset stomachs and dirty toilet bowls are returning to television. And regardless of how you voted, it’s apparent that many people are pretty tired of not only political negativity, but also of Congressional gridlock.

Editor-in-chief Bernie Pacyniak
Bernie Pacyniak

Thus, that quote by former President Bill Clinton is almost as telling about these midterm elections as it was about the hotly contested Al Gore/George Bush presidential election. Although many of my Republican friends will be touting this as a strong message of disapproval regarding President Obama’s second term, I see this as more as an indicator of voter frustration and a not-so-veiled demand for action.

Moreover, the money spent in misinformation has proven to be obscene. In our (Illinois) gubernatorial race alone, which featured a multimillionaire businessman versus the incumbent, nearly $100 million was spent on the race, the bulk of it on nasty television ads. And a stat I picked up from one of the local columnists, Roger Simon from The Chicago Sun-Times, says that $4 billion was spent on the recent congressional races, with about $2.4 billion on tear-the other-guy/gal ads.

According to my count, that’s a whole lot of vitriol. What’s even more amazing is that a national survey by the Pew Research Center shows neither party is well-loved. Only 39 percent of registered Republican voters view their party favorably while 55 percent have an unfavorable opinion.

On the Democratic side, 47 percent see the party favorably, with 48 percent viewing it unfavorably. Hmmm. Not exactly a vote of confidence for either side.

Thus, Lee Iacocca’s famous sound bite “Throw the bums out” appears to have returned, with voters from both parties struggling to be enthusiastic about the future.

Voters also struggled with several other issues yesterday, although legalizing marijuana wasn’t one of them (Oregon, Alaska and Washington, D.C., approved legalization). GMO labeling, however, was. The latest results from Oregon show that the mandatory GMO-labeling initiative was voted down, albeit narrowly, the nays garnering 51 percent of the vote against the measure.

Here, too, spending — for the ballot initiative — was off the chart: $28 million spent in total, with $8 million for and $20 million against the initiative.

A similar proposal in Colorado, however, didn’t garner as much support; that initiative was resoundingly defeated by a 2 to 1 margin. Spending on the initiative surpassed $18 million, with $17 million funneled against the initiative. Regardless, the results do not mean that the GMO labeling issue is going to go away. Proponents for a labeling mandate about GMO ingredients are adamant about the cause, even if they’re a bit short on funds.

Personally, I’m all for transparency as well as choice. But as we all know, labeling changes translate into packaging costs for food manufacturers, not to mention the possibility of higher ingredient costs. So there better be a good reason for it.

Consequently, is mandatory GMO labeling worth the expense? Well, it certainly appears that there are plenty of consumers who think so, and I sense the momentum is building. I, for one, don’t see any harm in GMO ingredients. At the same time, I don’t disagree that more studies on any potential long-term effects, if any, would be well worth the investment.

Heck, I think $46 million would certainly kickstart several such studies. I don’t know whether the results of such studies would change the minds of those for or against GMO ingredients. But it certainly might enlighten consumers, however, on the need for mandatory labeling.

I know, it’s probably wishful thinking that money spent debating an issue could be used to better understand the differences behind that same issue, maybe even leading to compromise. Oh wait, most politicians and, dare I say, many voters, don’t know the meaning of the word.  Maybe there should be a ballot initiative mandating compromise? Could save us all a lot of mud-slinging and money.