A bill now in the Oregon Legislature could harm organic and seed farmers in YOUR neighborhood, by forcing all counties to abide by the same policies – even when locals don’t like them.
We are often told that opposition to genetically modified organisms in the food we eat  (GMOs,) is opposition to science, but consider that GMO crops are not “science” — they are commercial products for sale.

Here in Oregon, the fact that Farmer “A” growing GMOs can ruin Organic Farmer “B’s” business by being allowed to plant cross-pollinating seeds is inherently unjust.  Cross-pollination, called “gene drift” is not a source of scientific dispute; it can and does happen. It is a problem for organic seed farmers or those who want to grow any crop free from corporate intellectual property claims.

Since 1992 the USDA, in spite of conflicting reports from its own scientists, has managed GMOs with a policy known as “substantial equivalence” which does not require independent scientific research.   If you combine substantial equivalence with the fact that GMOs are patent-protected products, the reality is that scientific studies about GMOs cannot be conducted at all by independent scientists. Some science!

In Oregon’s Jackson County, tens of thousands of dollars of lucrative seed crops have already been plowed under by organic growers in order to protect their certification and market reputation from pollution by gene drift.

The Federal government (USDA APHIS) is not willing to solve the problem confronting our local sustainable agriculture. Economic or possible health impacts on humans are NOT part of their charter.

If you are a certified organic grower/seed saver, and think you have a GMO test plot grown for seed next door, you can file a complaint.  APHIS will send Biotech Regulatory Service investigators to investigate permit violations, but the results are kept confidential. You’ll never know what was in that field.

In fact, Oregon is a hotbed of undisclosed GMO test plots. In 2011, Oregon had the 4th largest number of permits issued in the US.

The state is not helping either.  Oregon Department of Agriculture has shown little regard for specialty seed growers. Their recent attempts to fast-track canola into the Willamette Valley speak volumes about their care about sustainable seed diversity.

Do regulators prefer that farmers become virtual corporate chattel living under the yoke of one-sided non-negotiable seed contracts that give all rights to the biotech companies?  Looks like it.’

The citizens of Jackson County successfully put a countywide GMO crop ban on the ballot.  Home rule, democracy, and the stuff America is made of!  But now, under the guise of normalizing seed regulations, the State would take away the county’s right to determine our own agricultural policy.  They call it SB633. Some democracy!

SB633 has implications for every county in Oregon.  Tell your representatives to vote no on SB633!

Brian Comnes is a resident of Ashland, Oregon and a firm believer that local and sustainable agriculture is the key to making Oregon a healthy place to live and invest.