(Oct. 15) The biotech food industry finds itself in quite a battle in Oregon as residents will soon decide whether to require labeling of food — including produce — containing genetically modified organisms.

But Oregon Ballot Measure 27 is a battle the biotech industry could have avoided.

Finance reports submitted at the end of September show that the Coalition Against the Costly Labeling Law has raised $4.6 million, much of it from out of state and from companies like General Mills, Procter & Gamble, Pepsico and Monsanto.

Imagine if a decade ago, all these companies spent $4.6 million telling consumers how biotech could add nutrients to food, extend shelf life and limit pesticide use through pest-resistant plant technology.

But they didn’t do that. They kept their products a secret to all but producers and let fear-mongering, political activist groups spread half-truths about biotechnology.

Genetically engineered food is commonplace now, but because companies that manufacture and sell the food didn’t address consumer concerns early in the process, now they face ballot measures and charges of “frankenfood.” Public sentiment is so strong against biotechnology in Europe that it’s too late for cost-effective consumer education there.

In the U.S., there is still time to tell consumers that there’s no evidence that biotechnology is harmful to consumers, but spending millions of dollars to defeat ballot measures is a terrible use of resources.

The produce industry, which prides itself on providing a product that contributes to preventive health care, should be able to set the example.

A thousand dollars spent on consumer education could have been worth a million dollars for this cure, which may not cure anything.