There’s news out of Jackson County, Oregon regarding the GMO cultivation ban. If you remember in 2014, voters in Jackson County voted in favor of a ballot measure that prohibited farmers from planting GMO crops within the county. Two farms brought suit against the county to stop implementation of the ban, because it would force them to remove their alfalfa crop, which is a crop that produces for several years. The Schulz farm claimed $2.2 million in damages, while the Frinks claimed $2 million in damages.
Unfortunately, according to the Capital Press, Magistrate Mark Clarke ruled last week that cultivation of GMOs was not protected by the state’s Right to Farm Act. Perhaps the most frustrating piece of this is that the judge bought into the argument that non-GMO crops have to be “protected” from cross-pollination. As part of the decision:
He pointed to testimony from lawmakers representing the county who claimed the ordinance was necessary to avoid unwanted cross-pollination between biotech crops and those that are conventional or organic.
Although theoretically possible, cross-pollination isn’t really an issue or that likely. Corn, for example, is only pollinating for one week. In order for separate fields to cross-pollinate, they would need to be planted physically close to each other and at the right times so that they were both in pollination at the exact same time. To the extent this even matters, it is easy enough for neighboring farmers to simply coordinate when a field is going to be planted.
Nonetheless, Clarke took this “problem” and used it to enforce the county-wide ban.
One positive note about this update – the farmers’ claims for compensation are still alive and well. While I don’t know much about Oregon eminent domain law, I’m hopeful this is at least one way the GMO farmers in Jackson County can win. The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the government from taking our property without “just” compensation. In some jurisdictions, if a government regulates a business in such a way that it can no longer conduct its business, that could be considered a taking. In this case, the government will impose the GMO ban, thus taking the farmers’ ability to farm those crops. If the court finds that to be a taking, the farmers will be entitled to “just” compensation.
I would love to see Jackson County handed a bill for $4.2 million.
Once again, while the rest of us across the country are watching Oregon to see how these issues are handled, we cannot forget that there are actual real family farmers being subjected to these bans. I cannot imagine how devastating it would be if your local government told you that you could no longer carry on your family business. That the anti-GMO movement is founded on scare tactics and bad science only makes it that much worse.
I’ll keep following…