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Friday, February 5, 2016

Should Oregon’s local governments get to ban GMO crops?

Feb. 5, 2016
Tracy Loew, Statesman Journal

The battle over genetically engineered crops has returned to the Legislature.

A House committee on Thursday heard testimony on the first of two bills that would repeal parts of 2013’s Senate Bill 863, which prohibits local governments from regulating crops or seeds. That bill was quickly passed during a special legislative session after Jackson County qualified a local GMO ban for the ballot. Jackson County was exempt and that ban has gone into effect.

Rep. Peter Buckley, D-Ashland, told the committee the law was written so broadly that it prohibits any local regulation of plants, including city ordinances regulating overgrown yards, city tree policies, and lawmakers’ own desire to let counties regulate marijuana.

“It’s added a level of confusion. We’re going to see more and more legal conflicts,” he said.

Buckley’s HB 4041 would remove “products of seeds” from the statute. He told the committee it wouldn’t reverse the local preemption created by the 2013 law.

But some committee members disagreed.

“This would gut the grand bargain then. It would gut that,” Rep. Mike Nearman, R-Dallas, said.

Several area farmers testified about the difficulties a “patchwork of local regulations” would present to those who farm in multiple counties.

Ivan Maluski, policy director for Friends of Family Farmers, countered that there’s been no action on a statewide solution to the conflict between GMO and non-GMO farmers, something that then Gov. Kitzhaber committed to in writing to win legislative support for the legislation in 2013.

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