By: Tracy Loew
A bill to restore local control over genetically engineered crops was gutted and replaced Thursday with language that will require labels on genetically engineered fish sold in Oregon.
The bill now heads to the House floor for a vote.
Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, sponsored both the original bill and the amendment.
Holvey said he remains hopeful that either the state Department of Agriculture or the Legislature eventually will address the issue of transgenic contamination threatening conventional and organic crops.
“There really isn’t a system to address this contamination,” Holvey said. “That issue still has to be solved and I hope in the future it will be solved.”
The topic has been persistent in Oregon since 2013, when Jackson County qualified a local initiative banning GE crops.
In response, the Legislature passed SB 863, banning other local governments from regulating crops or seeds. At the time, Gov. John Kitzhaber promised a state-level solution to the problem. That hasn’t happened, and a state task force studying the problem issued no recommendations.
“It’s been more than two years of inaction by the state,” said Ivan Maluski, policy director for Friends of Family Farmers. “If we don’t allow local communities to set up protections, or if the state won’t set up protections, we’re effectively waiting until there’s another crisis.”
Also in 2013, unapproved GE wheat was discovered in an eastern Oregon field, costing farmers the ability to export their wheat.
Meanwhile, last November, federal regulators approved genetically engineered salmon for human consumption. December’s Congressional spending bill contained a provision directing the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to develop a label for GE salmon.
But Holvey said he’s worried that won’t happen.
Several fish groups testified in support of the replacement bill.
“Providing the opportunity for consumers to know when they are purchasing a GMO fish is very, very important,” said Jim Myron, wild fish lobbyist for the Native Fish Society.
Originlally Published: Statesman Journal