Family farmers, environmentalists and organic growers are mobilizing to oppose a small piece of the package deal going before lawmakers in the upcoming special session of the Oregon Legislature that would bar local ordinances restricting genetically modified organisms.
The ban, sought by the Monsanto Co. and other agriculture businesses, is part of a much-larger deal negotiated by Gov. John Kitzhaber with legislative leaders on a package of tax and pension reforms. The package is being billed as a way to raise budgets for public schools and restore past cuts.
Local initiatives to ban the growing of genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, have been filed in Lane, Jackson and Benton counties, and a fourth is being considered in Multnomah County.
Some in the agriculture industry want to head off such local measures, and a bill pre-empting them was pushed in the regular 2013 legislative session but did not pass.
That bill was revived in recent bipartisan talks to lay the groundwork for the special session starting on Sept. 30
This bill is bad policy for Oregon farmers, consumers and local communities, and should not be included as part of a complicated and unrelated legislative tax and pension reform package, said Ivan Maluski, director of Friends of Family Farmers, based in Molalla.
A letter opposing the measure was sent Tuesday to Kitzhaber, House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, and signed by The Friends of Family Farmers, Oregon Environmental Council, Sierra Club, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Oregon Tilth, the Center for Food Safety and Organically Grown Co.
The groups note in their letter that Oregon ranks fifth in the nation for its number of organic farms, with more than 444 certified, operating on more than 156,000 acres of land.