MEDFORD, Ore. – A wall of dollar bills stands outside the Jackson County Elections Office. It’s part of a Tuesday morning protest, using 800 bills representing the roughly $800,000 spent to stop a genetically modified crop ban.
“This is what’s coming in right now to Jackson County via these big chemical companies,” said Elise Higley, Campaign Manager with the Our Family Farms Coalition.
Of that money, about three quarters comes from out of state.
Supporters of the ban say the funds are an effort to protect fields leased by companies like Syngenta and Monsanto.
“It’s making a difference to a big chemical company, and that’s why they’re pouring the money into the campaign,” said Higley.
But while most of the money comes from outside the county, not all GMO crops in the Rogue Valley are owned by big companies.
Farmers like Ron Bjork, while representing a minority in the county, are being asked to get rid of all GMO crops within a year should the measure pass.
“You’ll have to at least plow it out, and then probably have to spray after that to get rid of it,” said Bjork. “Then you have the loss of income for really almost two years.”
For Bjork, losing a field of GMO alfalfa could mean losing a crop that’s good for six or seven years.
But supporters of the ban say not all crops are so hard to replace.
“[Farmers] have to buy their seed every year,” said Higley. “So they just wouldn’t buy that seed a year from now and they would start growing non-genetically engineered crops.”
While both sides wait on voters to make their choice, Bjork says the issue won’t be put to rest either way.
“That’s probably going to end up in a lawsuit,” said Bjork. “It’s just something that we can’t afford out here the way I see it. At least I can’t afford it.”