(Graphic by Anthony Freda)
Have you signed yet?? We are collecting signatures for our ballot measure for just a couple more days (see locations to sign below)
“GMO-Free Josephine County Moving Forward with Genetically Engineered Plant Ballot Measure”
On September 30, 2013, members of GMO-Free Josephine County submitted a petition for a county ballot initiative to phase out and prohibit the growing of genetically engineered crops in Josephine County due to the risk of genetic contamination to neighboring farms and gardens in the county. Volunteers seek to obtain 1,997 valid signatures to qualify the initiative for inclusion on the ballot for May 20, 2014, at the same time GMO-Free Jackson County’s similar measure will appear on the ballot. Both groups work to create a GMO-Free Rogue Valley.
Passage of the measure is critical to the agricultural economy of Josephine County, larger Rogue Valley, and many other regions across Oregon. The Rogue Valley is a principal seed-growing region for many crops, including beets and chard. GMOs directly threaten the economic viability of the organic seed industry in this valley because of the potential for cross-contamination from genetically engineered crops that have been planted nearby. If pollen from GMO sugar beets, for example, is carried by the wind and pollinates an organic crop of beets or chard, then the owner of that farm will be raising GMO crops the next year and will no longer have a truly organic or natural product. Cross-contamination has cost area businesses money in lost seed production. It is the position of GMO-Free Josephine County that everyone has a right to grow food free from genetic contamination for themselves and others.
Genetically engineered organisms, also known as genetically modified organisms or GMOs, are organisms that have undergone laboratory processes to introduce genes from other organisms to create novel genetics that do not occur in nature, such as splicing fish DNA into tomato, or foreign bacteria into corn. GMOs are not created using traditional cross-pollination or hybridization techniques. Once GMOs contaminate organic crops, those crops can no longer be sold and often have to be destroyed.
If approved by Josephine County voters, the ballot initiative would prohibit new plantings of GMO crops and give farmers with genetically modified crops already in the ground a 12 month period to phase out their plantings and transition to non-genetically engineered crops. The law would provide exemptions for certain medical and educational research facilities that use genetically engineered organisms in controlled environments that prohibit escape into the open environment.
Shortly after the Josephine County Elections Office approved the proposed ballot measure as constitutional, the Oregon legislature passed a bill (SB 863) as part of a controversial special session called by the Governor. SB 863 aims to preempt counties from enacting their own laws regarding all “seeds and seed products.” The stated object of the law is to prohibit local regulations regarding genetically engineered crops, effectively relegating all decisions of agriculture to the State. While Jackson County has been made exempt from SB 863, GMO-Free Josephine County has reason to believe that legal challenges to SB 863 underway may lead the Oregon Supreme Court to overturn on constitutional and other grounds.
GMO-Free Josephine County contends that proceeding with this ballot measure despite possible state preemption is a win-win scenario. Even if the state bill prevails, this ballot initiative can serve as an opportunity for the residents of Josephine County to assert their rights to self-governance, free from undue outside corporate influence and state or federal preemption of critical agricultural matters that affect our local food, farms and future.
Petitions located at:
The Herb Shop… G Street
Infuzed Xpress…. 9th & F
Native Greens…. New Hope Road
Eloquence….. 6th Street
Read the Petition text here: http://www.gmofreejosephinecounty.org/#!ballot-measure-/c1apl