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Oregon farmers ask voters to ban GMOs

Counties nationwide are intensifying their push to place limits on engineered crops

By Associated Press


ASHLAND, Ore. » Unable to find a good solution to protecting their certified organic seed crops from potential contamination from genetically engineered crops, small organic farmers in this Oregon valley are appealing to a higher power: voters.

They wanted to protect their crops from being cross-pollinated by genetically modified ones, and asked voters in two counties to ban the cultivation of GMOs — a move that would drive producer Syngenta out of the Rogue Valley where it grows seed for sugar beets resistant to the popular weed killer Roundup.

Mail-in ballots will be counted in Jackson and Josephine counties Tuesday.

The vote is the latest example of a rising resistance to GMOs from Hawaii to Vermont at a time when genetically modified crops domi- nate the production of commodities like sugar beets, corn and soybeans. There is no mainstream scientific evidence of a health risk.

"People are becoming more aware of the fact that food in this country is genetically engineered, and they are starting to look into what that might mean in terms of health and the environment," said professor Laura Murphy of the Environmental and Natural Resources Law Clinic at Ver­mont Law School.

Big agribusinesses, spending millions, and GMO opponents have traded victories in recent years.

This month Vermont's governor signed a law to make the state the first requiring disclosure of GMO ingredients in food labels, starting in 2016. The National Conference of State Legislatures reports 84 genetically modified food labeling bills are pending in 30 states.

Since 2004, counties in California, Hawaii and Washington state have adopted bans. In 2012 agribusiness groups defeated ballot measures in California and Washington state to require statewide GMO food labeling. There is now an effort in Oregon to ask voters to require GMO food labeling.

A bill to nullify state labeling requirements is pending in the U.S. House.

The Oregon vote is the latest battle over the future of agriculture. It is set in this picturesque valley near the California border, where Syngenta has operated in near anonymity since 1993, and organic farmers have tapped a growing demand.

Farmers started gathering signatures for a ballot measure banning GMOs in 2012, and asked Oregon State University Extension to help create a mapping system so GMO and organic corps would each be free of the other's pollen.

After about six months, talks broke down, and the organic farmers went ahead with the ballot measure.

Chuck Burr grows more than 300 varieties of certified organic seed outside Ashland and is president of the Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association. He said he could not in good conscience try to sell his crop of chard seeds after learning Syngenta had a field nearby.

"If anybody ever wanted to push small farms out of the valley, that is how they would do it, with GMO crops," he said.

Jeff Barnard, Associated Press

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holumuahawaii wrote:
"There is no monster under the bed. There never has been a monster under the bed. There never will be a monster under the bed." So sayeth all of the world's scientists and experts. "Can you guarantee that?" asks the timorous child......because unless you can assure me that there are no such thing as monsters, I want the light to be on at all times. It just makes me feel better." And that is what labeling is all about--fear of possible unknown, unknowable, monsters under the bed.
on May 18,2014 | 05:31AM
cartwright wrote:
Ignoring fears of children will make bad parents. Ignoring fears of consumers will bankrupt companies. Ignoring voters will will get a politician to lose elections. To operate in secrecy via lobbying will turn fear into hate. Then irrationality. Then violence. Same with children.
on May 18,2014 | 10:39AM
cojef wrote:
Like chopping papaya trees wantonly causing untold losses for the immigrant poor dirt farmer trying to make a living in this great country.
on May 18,2014 | 11:49AM
1local wrote:
organic farming is for the rich. Organic farming will never feed the masses.
on May 18,2014 | 12:12PM
tiwtsfm wrote:
If everyone stopped buying products that contain GMO's, there would be no market for GMO crops. It would not pay farmers to grow them. End of problem. Of course, that would mean people would be giving up many convenience and junk foods. Going after the farmer's is the wrong target - the target should be those who use GMO crops in their product.
on May 18,2014 | 05:58AM
OldDiver wrote:
Mass starvation would soon follow. But according to the anti-GMO organic industry funded groups that is just fine because it will mean increased profits for them. How about that for elitist thinking.
on May 18,2014 | 07:47AM
kuroiwaj wrote:
Please explain 300 varieties of certified organic seed? As a Horticulture science graduate, all plants and animals are certified organic organisms. If this article is relating to GMO's, then please explain what is a certified organic seed that is a GMO?
on May 18,2014 | 07:56AM
BluesBreaker wrote:
Title should say "Organic Farmers". Conventional farmers use the seeds produced by agricultural biotech companies to increase their yields and reduce damage to their crops from drought, insects and weeds.
on May 18,2014 | 08:03AM
false wrote:
True. SA has a habit of sensationalizing headlines to sell more papers.
on May 18,2014 | 10:31AM
Rainbowgran wrote:
"There is no mainstream scientific evidence of a health risk." There also is no scientific evidence that GMO's are safe. Just like I thought I was buying a "safe" car back in 2003 by buying a 2003 Saturn Ion. GMC knew in 2001 before Saturn was even put out there that there was something wrong. Right now super big example of how corporate America and the American government work to keep Americans safe. Although GMC was assessed the maximum fine allowed by the Federal government it is a travesty and a stomp on every Americans heart who is not in the 1% that truly run the country. And then you wonder why people don't vote, why depression in this country is now rampant. You've won you 1% who truly run the USA as an Imperialistic Democracy. You've taken the country down from within.
on May 18,2014 | 12:29PM
environmental_lady wrote:
All those who oppose GMO labeling are supporters of Monsanto. There are documented health hazards of GMO. I find that organic vegetables taste so much better and have more vitality in them. Roundup is a poison that needs to be banned. Organic farmers need to be protected from vicious lawsuits by Monsanto just because GMO seeds cross-contaminated them. I hope the organic farmers win this round and many more to come.
on May 18,2014 | 01:00PM