This morning I reported on my Facebook page that Jackson County in Oregon voted last night to ban the growth of GMOs (and lots of other types of crops) within the county. (If you’ve trying to catch up on the controversy, you can check out my article what the ballot proposal was all about.)
My status sparked quite the debate about this issue and Oregon’s decision in general (which is just one more reason you really should follow me on Facebook!) It was interesting to see the supporters of the ballot proposal that responded, saying that the
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The ban was actually passed in two Oregon counties – Jackson and Josephine. However, it will only be in practical effect in Jackson County; Josephine’s ballot measure was preempted by state law. Farmers in Jackson County will now have 12 months to remove all GMO crops from their farms or the county will do it for them.
While we can argue about whether or not this vote will have national implications (I seriously doubt it will), my focus today has been on the farm families that have just been hit with this news. The thing about farming is, you can’t just up and move. You don’t get to relocate on a whim. You can’t just pick up the family farm and take it to a different state. Farmers are very much tied to the land – literally and metaphorically.
For those farm families that made a living planting GMO crops (or even just hybrid varieties, which are not GMOs but were included in the ban), this was a devastating blow. Although some have suggested that these farmers can just turn to farming organically or without GMO crops, the idea is fairly naive. Farming requires lots of choices. The use of biotechnology effects what equipment you use, the size of your farm for economic viability, your scheduling decisions, and a whole host of issues.
One of my very first Farming Fridays! posts (which you can read here) was about the considerations that goes into selecting the corn seeds we use. It is a huge decision that ripples through your farm. And it isn’t one you can just change over night. If my family were faced with this type of ballot measure, I honestly believe we would be considering a different economic course for our family altogether.
In other words, we wouldn’t continue farming.
The saddest thing to me is that the passage of this ballot measure — based on fear and lies — will put an end to some of the family farmers in Jackson County. Those families work hard every day to bring food to Oregonians, the nation, and even the world. They were betrayed by voters last night who made it harder for them to feed and support their own families.
The government may regulate farming for safety and environmental purposes, but it should not dictate what type of farms we will have or whether we will farm at all. I may not like or endorse organic farming, but I would feel the same way about a ban on it or any other method of farming. Farmers should be making those decisions, not voters who have been tricked with fear and deception by activists.
In the meantime, let this be a call to all farmers that appreciate having choice in how they farm. Let this remind us that we have a long way to go to educate the public. We need to talk to our family and friends. We need to educate our kids. We need to stand up when people are spreading lies about us. We all need to be involved in the message of agriculture.
Otherwise, the only thing people will hear is how bad we are.
Starvation is too high a price to pay for not doing something.