|Voters in Jackson County,
Oregon- Vote no!
If you can’t label them, ban them.
That’s exactly what one county in Oregon is attempting to do right now. Residents of Jackson County, Oregon are currently voting on 15-119, a ballot proposal that would make it illegal to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow any genetically modified crops, even if they have been approved by the FDA, the USDA, the EPA, and the state’s own regulatory agencies.
The ban on biotechnology is being supported by GMO-Free Jackson County and Our Farms Coalition. Turns out these organizations are being funded primarily by organic farmers, organizations, and companies based in and around Jackson County. Although the organic population in the area is small, it’s growing and gaining traction in the region.
I spoke with Ian at Oregon Farm Bureau about this issue. He indicated that the proposal goes beyond simply banning genetically modified crops. Rather, the definition of “genetically modified” is extended to crops that use “hybridization techniques.” As farmers can tell you, that takes the definition of “genetically modified” well beyond the Round-Up Ready crops. And, as a lawyer, those types of definitions are going to be litigated.
What’s more, the provision allows the county government or your friendly neighborhood snitch to bring legal action against any farmers thought to be in violation of the ban. If a violation is found, the crops will be destroyed at the farmer’s cost.
Danny Jackson, the Jackson County Administrator, estimated the county could expend a whopping $110,000 just to find and train an ag-savvy enforcement officer to enforce the measure. However, if there is a violation and formal proceedings are necessary, that number could easily double. Meanwhile, the Jackson County has already been forced to cut back on other programs and services. Ian stressed that many local counties are already in bad shape financially, so adding a costly enforcement measure that bans a perfectly safe product makes the situation just that much worse.
But forget about costs. Forget about the organic sponsors. Forget the loss of private property rights. Heck, forget about the fact that the ban would allow the county government to destroy perfectly good crops when there are starving and hungry people in our world.
Fundamentally, this ban is meant to take away people’s choice. One of the awesome thing about our food system is that we get to go to the grocery store and choose what we want to eat out of an array of options. Despite the flaws, we still choose which crops to produce and which foods to eat. As my readers know, I get a little cranky when companies or organizations use fear to market their products at the expense of conventional farmers. It’s even worse when they want to completely and totally ban those choices.
Not to mention the difficulty this creates for farmers. Instead of allowing our farmers safe options to grow food, the ban wants to force them to make certain choices on their farms. We already live by the endless amounts of regulations enforced by the federal, state, and local governments. But for someone to tell us that we are forbidden from using a perfectly safe product takes the regulation to a whole new extreme in eroding private property rights. It’s also an affront to our ability to make informed and meaningful economic choices.
Without any scientific proof that biotechnology is dangerous or detrimental to humans or the environment, the organizations pushing this measure want to take away choices from farmers and consumers.
Ian summed it up this way: “If this measure going on in Jackson County would ban organic farming, we would oppose it just as hard. There is something inherently wrong with banning your competitor or banning the ability of someone to work their own land.There is value to having options and choices and when you’re working your own land, you should be able to do that.”
If ever there’s a reason to support a ballot proposal, freedom would be it.
Voting closes on May 20, 2014 at 8pm. I’ll post the results as soon as I have them.