MEDFORD, Ore. – A group of organic farmers and opponents of genetically modified organisms filed petitions on Tuesday, seeking to ban “GMO’s” in Jackson County. It’s an issue that has been brewing for about a year now when organic growers found that genetically modified sugar beets and other plants were being planted in several Rogue Valley plots.
Several dozen supporters of a ban on GMO’s descended on the Jackson County Elections Office to turn in more than 700 pages of petition signatures Wednesday morning. The petitioners are calling for a county ordinance to block the planting of genetically modified crops that they say could spread pollen to nearby organic crops, thereby contaminating the organic produce.
“It’s a natural process to spread pollen. Genetic drift is virtually inevitable and one way to protect our organic farms in Jackson county is to make this a sanctuary for quality food,” said Chief Petitioner Brian Comnes.
“If we do not take action, if we allow GMO crops to contaminate organic farms in Jackson County, it’s to our economic detriment, for all of us,” State Representative Peter Buckley.
Supporters did make a pitch for commissioners to push the process ahead without going to the voters first.
“If you cannot take the leadership to pass our ordinance to protect the health and safety and welfare of our farms and our citizens, we would ask that you at least put yourself on the record for supporting a GMO ban, and pass a resolution endorsing a ‘Yes’ vote on the ordinance,” stated Chris Hardy, an organic seed grower.
In the meantime, elections officers are checking signatures for a possible vote later. If the petitions signatures qualify the County Clerk says the first time this measure could come up on the ballot would be in May of 2014. If the county commissioners decide to adopt the issue and put it on the ballot, it could come in a special election, maybe a year earlier.
4,662 valid petition signatures of registered voters are required to get the measure on the May 2014 ballot. More than 6,700 names were submitted. In addition, more than 900 farmers and 230 businesses say they also support a ban on genetically modified crops in Jackson County.