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Oregon Farmers Battle Over GMO Control

Submitted by Food Democracy Now on February 11, 2016 - 2:37pm

By: Tracy Loew

Oregon farmers are suffering real financial losses because of contamination from nearby genetically engineered crops, a Legislative committee heard Thursday.

“We lose money when we have a GMO contamination event, which I’ve had happen twice,” said Don Tipping, an organic seed grower from Williams. “We lost money directly, as have other growers.”

More than two dozen people testified at a hearing on HB 4122, which would repeal 2013 legislation prohibiting local governments from regulating crops or seeds.

The 2013 legislation was quickly passed during a special session after Jackson County qualified a local GMO ban for the ballot. Jackson County was exempt, and that ban has gone into effect.

At the time, then-Gov. John Kitzhaber promised a legislative solution to the conflict. That hasn’t happened, the bill’s backers say.

“This bill puts the decision-making back to the local government. That’s where people can’t get bought out,” said Elise Higley, a Jackson County farmer and director of Our Family Farms Coalition, referring to large campaign contributions from agribusiness companies.

In the weeks after the 2013 special session was announced, a dozen companies including Monsanto, Novartis and Syngenta contributed at least $127,745 to legislators' campaign committees, the two Republican caucus political action committees, and three other PACs that contribute to candidates.

The bill’s opponents, meanwhile said farmers should be able to work among themselves to resolve conflicts. And, they said, it would create a patchwork of regulations.

“It is very common for farmers and foresters to have land in multiple counties, and oftentimes a single field can straddle county boundaries,” said Scott Dahlman, policy director for Oregonians for Food & Shelter.

They also pointed to last year’s passage of HB 2509, which requires the Oregon Department of Agriculture to create a mediation program for farmers of GMO and non-GMO crops.

“We will not be able to have enough food for the world without having GMO food,” said Dan Chin, a potato grower from Klamath Falls. “If you look at the science — no one’s got sick over it. There isn’t any major problems. But there is a big hype about it.”

The committee is scheduled to take action on the bill at its meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 11, in Hearing Room D at the Capitol. It’s also scheduled to take action on HB 4041, which would remove “products of seeds” from the statute.

Originally Published: Statesman Journal

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