Coloradans can ask for more open school boards, food labels in November | CraigDailyPress.com

Coloradans can ask for more open school boards, food labels in November

Janelle O'Dea

Any food that contains genetically modified ingredients may be required to label it as such after the November elections.

In November, Colorado voters will decide how much information both school boards and food labels should provide.

Proposition 104 would "require that local school boards or their representatives negotiate collective bargaining agreements in open meetings."

According to the Colorado Open Records Act, "Any meeting at which a state or local governmental body discusses public business or takes formal action must be open to the public, with certain exceptions."

Such exceptions can include personnel issues, security information or real estate transactions. In these cases, the body may call an executive session.

A collective bargaining agreement is the employment negotiations between employer and employee.

According to the final draft of the proposed statute change:

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"Collective bargaining agreements between school boards and school employees address a variety of other terms and conditions such as curriculum, instructional materials and class size."

JB Chapman, president of the Moffat County School District Board of Education, said the School Board has not taken a position on the issue.

"We did not discuss it at all," Chapman said. He said the issue "just never got brought up."

Ben DeGrow, senior education policy analyst for the Independence Institute, said voters should support Proposition 104 for many reasons.

"Large amounts of public dollars and policies are being decided and discussed behind closed doors," DeGrow said. "It’s good for parents and taxpayers who want to see how the money is being spent and how policies are being created. It’s also good for teachers to make sure the group that’s representing them is doing a good job."

Opponents of Proposition 104, according to the Local Schools, Local Choices website, think it is overly broad.

"This broad, vague wording could mean that everyday conversations that occur between teachers and administrators about things like snow days, student schedules and professional development could also have to be made open to the public," the website states.

Spokesperson for Local Schools, Local Choices Ranelle Lang echoed these thoughts.

“It’s vague and it’s costly. This is something that school boards can already do, and so it’s an issue of local control,” Lang said. “Local school boards, if they choose, can have open negotiations and some already do.”

Colorado residents also can vote for more open information on their food labels.

Proposition 105 would require genetically modified foods to be labeled as such. The new statute would also impose existing food mislabeling penalties in state law to food manufacturers, distributors and retailers.

The statute would prohibit citizens from bringing a lawsuit against food manufacturers, distributors and retailers for improperly labeling food.

It would also require the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to develop regulations and oversee labeling regulations.

According to Merriam-Webster online, a GMO is "an organism whose genome has been altered in order to favour the expression of desired physiological traits or the output of desired biological products. Genetically modified foods were first approved for human consumption in the United States in 1995."

The American Public Health Association supports GMO labeling for more than a dozen reasons cited on its website, including recognition that the European Union, as well as other countries, requires GMO labeling and that the labeling may help some consumers avoid allergic reactions.

"Foods have been genetically engineered for over 20 years with no disclosure," said Tammi DeVille Merrell, campaign manager for Right To Know Colorado. "We feel that Coloradans have a right to know what they’re eating, and companies shouldn’t hide their ingredients, and Coloradans shouldn’t be left in dark about what they’re eating."

Deville Merrell also said that when exporting GMO food to any of the 64 countries that require GMO labeling, U.S. companies already label the food.

Brent Boydston, vice president of public policy for the Colorado Farm Bureau and lifetime farmer, said voters should reject the proposition based on the way it’s written.

“It's a proposition that doesn't do what it says it does,” Boydston said. “It claims to be all about labeling but yet exempts 2/3 of food products that would be out there today.”

The opposition campaign's website, "No on 105: the misleading and costly food labeling proposition," quotes cost to farmers as the main reason the group opposes Prop 105:

"Farmers and food producers would have to install separate and costly new production systems for growing, harvesting, packing, processing and transporting products, and create extensive new record keeping systems to track these operations."

Contact Janelle O’Dea at 970-875-1795 or jodea@CraigDailyPress.com or follow her on Twitter @jayohday.