Voters in Oregon yesterday [Tuesday] rejected a ballot initiative to make Oregon the first state to introduce mandatory labelling of genetically modified foods.

Early returns showed that a US$5m campaign by the food and biotechnology industries to encourage Oregonians to vote against Measure 27 appeared to have worked, with over 73% of voters rejecting the measure.

The campaign opposing the measure was centred mainly on claims that GM labelling would result in higher costs for restaurants, grocery stores and school cafeterias. The Coalition Against the Costly Labelling Law said proponents of Measure 27 were trying to scare people about the foods they eat.

Supporters of the initiative remained determined: "I don't consider it a loss. We may lose this election but this is just the beginning of a movement here in Oregon and across the nation," the measure's chief petitioner, Donna Harris, told Reuters.

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