ASHLAND, Ore. – Chris Hardy munches on a fresh-picked leaf of rainbow chard on his organic farm in Ashland. He says he normally has to worry about contamination, being downwind from a nearby field of genetically modified sugar beets.
A year from now, that won’t be the case.
“I feel like it’s a momentous day for family farms across Southern Oregon,” said Hardy.
Hardy is one of a number of growers in the area selling seeds and fresh produce. He says closing the door on GMO’s will create more demand for his crops.
“We can say with a higher degree of certainty that those have integrity,” said Hardy.
But not everyone is so enthused. Just down the valley, Bruce Schulz, an alfalfa farmer, has a much different reaction.
Schulz grows 150-200 acres of alfalfa in the county, a portion of which are from Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seeds. He says alfalfa crops can go six to ten years before having to be replanted. But thanks to the ban he’ll have to rip out his GMO crops within 12 months, which means he could lose years of investment on those seeds.
“It’s going to affect me for four to six years, substantially,” said Schulz.
Enforcing that ban on a county-wide basis has long remained one of the big questions of this campaign. County commissioners say they still haven’t had a chance to work out those details.
“We have no answers quite honestly,” said Commissioner Don Skundrick.
Over the next 12 months, Skundrick and his colleagues will work on a system, likely similar to the complaint-driven one used in code enforcement, to ensure GMO’s are phased out.
A cost analysis commissioned by county leadership shows that system will cost anywhere from pennies all the way up to a maximum of $219,000, and will likely inspire lawsuits from farmers dissatisfied with the ban.
But at this point, Skundrick says there’s only one thing they know for sure.
“We’re not immediately going to go out and start invading peoples’ gardens, or their fields, or coming onto properties,” said Skundrick. “That’s not going to happen.”
In the meantime, farmers like Hardy will use the next year to re-test their fields for GMO’s.
Hardy says if they find any, they’ll have to start from scratch too.
“We would find a source of non-GMO seeds and that would be the foundation for starting from there,” said Hardy.
County commissioners say there’s no exact deadline for an enforcement system, other than the fact that it has to be done in a year. They say they’re still waiting to see if GMO farmers replant on their own.