Josephine County judge says ban on growing GE crops is invalid

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Josephine County GMO ban struck down because it conflicts with Oregon law
By Molly Harbarger
The Oregonian | May 18th, 2016

A Josephine County judge said Monday that a ban on growing genetically modified crops is invalid. The ruling clears up the legal limbo county officials have lived with for that last two years.

"The state law says that the localities may not legislate in this area; and the voters of Josephine County have attempted to legislate in the exact same area," wrote Josephine County Circuit Court Judge Pat Wolke. "The local ordinance must give way."

The lawsuit was filed by Robert A. White, Jr. and his wife, Shelly, who claimed they rely on GMO sugar beets for a living. They were supported by Oregon farm groups that typically defend growers' use of pesticides and GMO crops.

"Farmers have a right to make their own choices about the crops they plant and farming methods they use," said Katie Fast, executive director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, about the ruling.

Josephine County voters approved the May 2014 ban -- which would have required farmers with genetically engineered plants in the ground to rip them out and prohibit anyone from planting new GMO seeds -- with 58 percent of the vote.

However, it came too late.

Josephine County residents were in the midst of drumming up support for the measure when the Oregon Legislature intervened. In October 2013, the legislature essentially banned all GMO bans, making the state the sole regulator of seeds.

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Photo from Wikimedia Commons.