Oh Oregon, what are we going to do with you?
Every time you turn around, it seems like some activist group in Oregon is trying to win some contentious issue about GMOs at the polls. Thankfully, most the time they lose.
On Tuesday night, voters in Oregon’s Benton County were given the opportunity to vote on whether or not genetically modified crops should be banned from cultivation in that county. Voters overwhelmingly said “no.” Nearly 73% of voters were sharp enough to realize this would be a bad idea.
Ironically enough, the vote was mostly symbolic, because Oregon’s state legislature passed a bill in 2013 that prohibited counties from banning the cultivation of GMOs. That hasn’t stopped these proposals from making it on the ballot though – both Jackson County and Josephine County passed bans back during the 2014 election. Josephine farmers were protected by the state law, but Jackson County farmers were not, due to a technicality. Nonetheless, those farmers have brought a lawsuit has been filed against it.
In the 2014 elections, there was also Measure 92 in Oregon, which proposed the idea of mandatory labeling of products containing genetically engineered crops. It also failed.
From what I hear, at least one other county in Oregon – Lane County – will have a GMO ban on the ballot in 2016. Hopefully, Lake County will stand up for family farmers like voters in Benton County did this week.
It is really difficult for me to imagine how it would feel to be a farmer in one of these counties. Here you are, attempting to made an honest living on the land, making choices that you believe are beneficial for your family and farm, and your neighbors are trying to steal away your ability to do that. I imagine it would feel pretty isolating and very unwelcoming. For the life of me, I cannot fathom why someone would want to run family farms out of their county.
But don’t worry – the anti-GMO forces have already vowed to come back and try to force this issue on Oregon’s voters again.
Stephanie Hampton, a spokeswoman and supporter of the ban said in the CGT: “We will be rewriting it because we think our local food system is an important thing. Now that the conversation has been started and people are aware of the issues, we can go forward from here.”
Ms. Hampton must have missed that part where Oregon voters already made a decision to stick with family farmers in Benton County. Instead of trying to bite the hand that feeds again, she should probably just consider respecting the voters’ decision.
I work with lots of farmers around the state and grew up in a county across the river from Benton. Farmers in Oregon feel attacked stemming from a disconnect with how their food is produced and why. Oregon grows more than 230 different crops and is considered a specialty crop state so farming is insanely diverse here. Even farmers who do grow the same crop, don’t always do things the same way. Thank you for sharing!
Thanks for talking about the issues that Oregon farmers are facing. It is such a headache.
One thing…Lake County is Rural Eastern Oregon…they won’t be banning GMOs any time soon. It’s Lane County, Oregon, that’s where the city of Eugene is located which is driving the movement.
Fixed. There is a Lake County near us and we have a lot of cases there! Must have gotten them confused! 😉