Another Bite of the Sandwich: HB 2882 Legislative Update
As a farmer who supports our legislative work says, you have to take one bite of the sandwich at a time. We're happy to say that we took a lot of bites of the sandwich this legislative session—and it isn’t over yet—but we haven’t quite finished the sandwich.
Cultivate Oregon and coalition partners put forth identical bills in the House and the Senate that would create patent holder or manufacturer liability for GE contamination events in Oregon. Unfortunately, it is simply not politically feasible to pass a bill that puts liability on patent holders or manufacturers—yet! Salem is a conservative place where business interests are fiercely protected, even by many liberals, and we have to work with legislators and take incremental steps if we want to make progress.
However, our issue got the attention of the democratic leadership and they agreed to help, but in order to move the bill forward, the original intent was amended to grant ODA the authority to regulate GE crops in Oregon—still a positive step forward since ODA has long claimed that the agency does not have this authority.
Getting an amendment drafted can be a straightforward process but the intent must stay true to the bill’s “relating clause.” All bills are assigned a “relating clause,” which is a summation of what issue the bill relates to. Oregon has a single subject rule, meaning that bills can only relate to a single issue.
The relating clause on the GE Liability bills is “Relating to liability for contamination by genetically engineered organisms.” Our legislative champions asked Legislative Counsel (LC) to draft an amendment to accomplish the new intent, but it was eventually determined that there wasn’t a feasible way to amend the bill to grant ODA the authority to regulate GE and stay true to the relating clause.
That said, our champions in the House and Senate had already promised to convene an official Work Group in the interim to continue working on GE issues, and we absolutely will be seeing this through.
We made several other strides forward too and are in a far better position to get work done in the future. We also were invited to join the Organic Stakeholder group that meets with ODA regularly, so the issues we care about will be better represented in Salem year round.
Some of the other accomplishments include:
- A new coalition member – Oregon Organic Coalition
- More sign-ons to the bills
- Support from the Speaker of the House
- Being assigned a legislative champion
- Surviving deadlines and having a hearing scheduled
- Having two legislators testify in support of our bill – a big thank you to Sen. Golden and Rep. Wilde
- An article in the Statesmen Journal and another story is in the works for a media outlet with national reach
- We have moved from being on the defense to being on the offense for GE issues
- A better understanding of how things work in Salem
As for next steps, we are still tracking SB 885, which would maintain the 500-acre limit on canola production in the Willamette Valley, as well as ODA’s proposed canola rules. Canola presents threats to specialty seeds through increased pest and disease pressures, as well as GE and other cross contamination concerns that could spread from the Willamette Valley to the Rogue Valley.
There is a public hearing about the proposed canola rules on May 29th from 4 to 7pm at ODA in Salem and we are looking for members of the seed community to attend and have the resources to make this happen! Please message us or text or call Amy at (805) 455 4200. Comments on the rules are also being accepted until June 21st at 5pm. Please contact us if you can participate in either of these important actions and we will coordinate this.
We’re making strides and won’t stop until we finish the whole sandwich. 🥪