Oregon: Jackson County Holds Off Enforcement of GMO Ban

Oregon: Jackson County Holds Off Enforcement of GMO Ban

Jackson County, Ore., won't be enforcing the ban on genetically modified crops approved by voters last May until a lawsuit filed by alfalfa farmers is resolved.

The Mail Tribune reports an agreement to that effect has been filed in federal court in Medford, where farmers growing GMO alfalfa are challenging the ban, and demanding compensation if it is enforced.

The ban was to go into effect in June.

The ballot measure was put up by organic farmers fearful that genetically modified sugar beets grown for seed by the Swiss biotech giant Syngenta would contaminate genetically related organic crops, such as chard and beets.

It was not clear whether Syngenta has pulled up stakes. A spokesman for Syngenta did not return calls for comment about its status in Jackson County. And OSU Extension Service administrator Phil Van Buskirk says he is not aware of anyone now growing GMO sugar beets in Jackson County.

The alfalfa farmers argue in their lawsuit that the ban violates Oregon's Right to Farm Act, and if they are forced to pull out their GMO alfalfa, the county should compensate them for the loss of $4.2 million.

The county has countered that the Legislature recognized the validity of the ban when it gave Jackson County an exception to a statewide prohibition on GMO laws. The county has also argued that the farmers assumed the risk of a potential ban when they planted alfalfa genetically modified to withstand weed killer.

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