Pages tagged "Preemption"
We're here at the 10th Organic Seed Growers Conference today! Amy Wong and Chris Hardy will be participating in a panel from 2:00pm - 3:30pm in the Alumni Center/Room 111, for "In the Trenches and in State Capitals: Legislative Work to Protect Organic Seed." Please join us!
Details: Given the federal policy shortcomings related to the oversight of GMOs and the protection of organic seed, advocacy groups have been promoting state-based initiatives to fill federal gaps. This panel includes policy leaders who will share updates, stories, and lessons learned with an eye toward strengthening policy and legislative efforts at the state level. Topics include liability for GE contamination; protecting the Willamette Valley from commercial canola cultivation in high-value organic seed production areas; ballot measures to ban GE crops in Southern Oregon; resisting cultural appropriation in New Mexico; and other community organizing examples that aim to protect the viability and integrity of organic seed. This session will provide an opportunity for audience members to discuss other ways to educate, inspire, and advocate for organic seed in their communities and beyond. https://seedalliance.org/conference-workshop-details
The USDA is seeking public comments on proposed GE Labeling rules (National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard). There are several proposals in this document, and it's a lot to read, but it is important that we take the time to let our voices be heard and make this labeling law be the best that it can be. Please take the time to read this document to be able to comment most effectively. The comment period is open for 60 days (until July 3rd) and there will not be an extension as the USDA is required by law to issue final rules by July 29th, 2018.
We'll also continue to post about some of the specific proposals that we find problematic, in order to help you hone your comment requests, in the coming days, so stay tuned.
Center for Food Safety has released a succinct write-up of the NBFDS and what the concerns are with it. Read it here.
Our Fall Newsletter is here! -- with some minor corrections. If you're not on our mailing list yet, you can sign up here to start receiving our quarterly newsletter.
Subject: News from Cultivate Oregon
Hello! It’s been awhile since you last heard from us, but Cultivate Oregon’s volunteer Steering Committee has been at work furthering our mission of championing regenerative agriculture and protecting traditional seeds from genetically engineered (GE) contamination. Below you’ll hear about what we’ve been up to and what we have planned. As we continue to grow we invite you to join us —we’re currently looking for additional volunteers and supporters. Feel free to be in touch or let us know that you want to volunteer at [email protected].
Along with our coalition partners, Cultivate Oregon participated in the 2017 legislative session in Salem. The coalition put forth two pieces of legislation aimed to address GE issues—H.B. 2739, which also had a Senate version, S.B. 1037, and H.B. 2739. Thank you to those who responded to the action alerts that we sent out—especially those that sent in personal testimony and traveled to Salem with the coalition. We were recently reminded by a legislator that while form letters can be useful, personal constituent testimony is truly what makes a difference.
As some background, in 2014, voters in both Josephine and Jackson counties, by significant majorities, passed ballot measures to ban the cultivation of GE seeds. However, during the 2013 special summer session, Oregon legislators included the GE seed issue in legislation (S.B. 683) that was used as leverage to pass the “Grand Bargain” related to PERS (retirement) issues. As part of this political compromise, which was otherwise unrelated to agriculture, S.B. 683 put into place a statewide prohibition that prevents any county or local jurisdiction from regulating GE seeds. (If Multnomah County voted to ban the cultivation of GE seeds, it could not go into effect.)
The Jackson County vote was fortunately exempted from S.B. 683 because the ballot initiative was filed by January 13, 2013—a political carve out made during the bargaining process. But Josephine County wasn’t included, and as a result, the county’s 58% affirmative vote was barred from going into effect simply because their citizen’s initiative was filed at a later date.
The coalition decided to pursue a legislative fix.
H.B. 2739 and S.B. 1037, the “Local Control” bills, sought to overturn this preemption to correct the disenfranchisement of Josephine County voters, and restore the right of Oregon counties to make choices about their agricultural needs. While the bills were assigned to committees, Rules and Environment & Natural Resources respectively, they did not pass. Opponents declined to restore local control, nor honor the vote in Josephine County, because of concerns about a “patchwork” of regulations throughout the state. However, the same opponents have failed to support any meaningful advances to statewide regulation.
In light of this discrepancy—no local control and no statewide legislation—the coalition also sought to create independent protection from GE contamination for Oregon farmers.
The aim of H.B. 2739, the “Liability” bill, was to implement a mechanism to aid farmers whose crops become contaminated by GE technology. The first-of-its-kind bill sought to put the liability for GE contamination on the patent holder of the contaminating seed, not the farmer who planted it. Since Oregon has no statewide regulation of GE crops, and has disenfranchised all counties (except Jackson) from making decisions about GE farming, conventional and organic farmers whose crops are contaminated have no simple recourse. If an organic farmer’s crop is contaminated, it can no longer be sold, and most farmers cannot afford to pursue legal remedies for such harm. Further, since one-way GE contamination often cannot be eradicated, the harm to an organic farm can be permanent. H.B. 2739 also was assigned to committee, Rules, and received a hearing, but was never voted on and died at the end of the busy session.
The opposition purports that GE contamination is not an issue in Oregon, and therefore, until there is a problem, there is no need for liability. However, there have been instances of GE contamination in Oregon; wheat in 2013, as well as ongoing GE bentgrass contamination that is the result of an escape from a GE field trial. The bottom line is that GE farmers should not be able to contaminate other farms with impunity and we will continue to advocate for protections from GE contamination.
- In addition to our legislative efforts, Cultivate Oregon hosted two events. In December we produced a Winter Solstice Square Dance in Hood River. The event built awareness around responsible food and farming and the importance of seed biodiversity. The event was sponsored by local farms and organic food companies. Diverse community members gathered to celebrate the winter solstice at the local Grange through community building and old timey rituals like dancing, breaking bread, and having fun! We hope to hold more events like this in the future.
- In July we offered a Winter Garden Seed Swap where we provided a fantastic selection of Oregon open-pollinated organic seeds, as well as homegrown seeds, geared towards winter gardens. We also had soil and plantable containers on hand so participants were able to get a jump-start on their cold weather sustenance. It was a lovely, sunny afternoon and we enjoyed hanging out with old friends and meeting new ones too.
- On September 13, Cultivate Oregon attended the Oregon Organic Coalition Awards for Excellence Luncheon where our friend and coalition member, Dr. Ray Seidler, was honored as Scientist of the Year! During the 1980s, Dr. Seidler was the Chief EPA scientist involved in monitoring the first ever microorganism GMO releases into the open environment. Since retiring, Dr. Seidler has presented numerous talks on health and environmental risk assessment issues pertaining to GE crops, impacts of pesticides on beneficial life forms and on endocrine disruptors. He has also testified many times before the Oregon legislature on bills impacting these subjects, and has also served as a scientific expert in legal matters involving GE issues. Cultivate Oregon is thankful that Dr. Seidler is committed to protecting organic farmers in Oregon.
- Cultivate Oregon attended the Earth Island Institute (EII) Project Directors Summit September 15-17 in the Marin Headlands, which was organized by our fiscal sponsor, EII. It was inspiring to be amidst over 70 non-profit projects, largely focused on environmental, social justice, and equity issues. We are continually grateful for the support and guidance that we receive from the EII community.
- Cultivate Oregon will be tabling at the Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir shows in Portland on October 6 and 7 at 7:30pm at The Old Church. Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir is a New York City-based radical performance community. They are anti-consumerist gospel shouters and Earth loving urban activists who have worked with communities all over the world defending community, life, and imagination.
- Details will be forthcoming for a fall screening of SEED! – The Untold Story, in Portland, along with organic popcorn, hot cider, and more seed swapping
- Cultivate Oregon is also excited to be partnering with Jerry Hunter, Urban Agriculturalist of Multnomah County’s Office of Sustainability, to present on-farm events next season.
- Lastly, stay tuned for an updated website later this fall or early winter.
Thank you for reading and we look forward to connecting with you soon. Lastly, as part of our long-term planning, we are looking for grant and foundation money, and part of this process includes upgrading our website. Please consider make a small donation to help up with this project, as well as our legislative and event outreach. Donate here.
– The Cultivate Oregon Steering Committee
9/24/2017 Update from Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families:
"We received notice on Sept. 20, 2017, the Oregon Judicial Court of Appeals has affirmed without opinion (AWOP) the White vs Josephine County with interveners Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families and Siskiyou Seeds. That's the bad news. The good news is that we still have that WIN on the books. Our work is clearly defined now to focus on the legislature. We need elected officials who are listening to the will of the people and we need to hold them accountable to that!
The Oregon Court of Appeals this week upheld a lower court ruling that overturned a 2014 voter-approved initiative banning genetically engineered crops in Josephine County.
Without comment, the appellate court affirmed a decision by Circuit Court Judge Pat Wolke, who previously ruled that a 2013 state law forbidding local action against GMOs, short for genetically modified organisms, took precedence over the county's subsequent ban.
Wolke's ruling was in response to a lawsuit filed by farmers Robert and Shelley White of Cave Junction, who once grew GMO sugar beets for the Swiss corporation Syngenta.
John DiLorenzo Jr., a Portland attorney who represented the Whites, said the appellate decision effectively rendered the county's ordinance unenforceable. In fact, the county never tried to enforce it and did not defend it in court.
"Lots of jurisdictions have unforceable codes on the books," he said. "This is now one of them."
Mary Middleton, leader of a group called Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families that defended the ban in court, conceded defeat.
"I don't believe there's another next step in Oregon," she said. "There's not another court to go higher with this. We've come to the end of the road, in terms of litigation."
Even so, she vowed to continue to seek change at the legislative level, saying lawmakers are ignoring the will of the people.
"We are not giving up, we are not giving in, we are going to continue to work on behalf of our farmers who have asked for protection in this beautiful seed-growing region," she said.
Josephine County's initiative, known as Measure 17-58, easily passed 58 to 42 percent in May 2014, a surprising margin given the county's conservative bent.
GMO crops make up the vast majority of corn, cotton, soybeans, canola and sugar beets grown in the United States, and smaller percentages of alfalfa, papaya and squash.
Backers argued GMO crops, which included plots of sugar beet starts, can contaminate non-GMO crops through cross-pollination. The campaign was also formed on a belief of increased pesticide use with GMOs.
Opponents of a ban called it bad public policy and a victory of ideology over science and common sense.
Fearing a toehold anywhere in Oregon, a consortium of bio-chemical companies led by Syngenta and Monsanto spent $800,000 in an attempt to defeat it.
The county's ban was challenged by the Whites the day it took effect in 2015. They said the ban conflicted with a 2013 state law that forbid local bans on GMOs.
Jackson County was the only county exempted from the state law, because it already had a ballot measure in the works.
Middleton's group and fellow intervenors Siskiyou Seeds, a Williams-area seed farm, countered that the state's attempt to block local bans was illegally backdated and that Josephine County's initiative process therefore was valid. They also argued the Whites were mere hobby farmers in a "manufactured lawsuit."
But Wolke disagreed, brushing aside complaints about the standing of the Whites and siding with DiLorenzo, the Whites' attorney, who argued that state law was intended to make GMO policy uniform in all 36 Oregon counties instead of letting each county make its own rules in a piecemeal fashion.
The lone exception was Jackson County, which started its initiative before the state law was approved and therefore was exempted.
Voters there approved a ban on GMOs during the same election as the ban in Josephine County.
The litigation that followed was less likely to succeed and has since been settled to allow farmers there to continue to grow GMO alfalfa for eight more years.
Despite the setback in court, the fact that a ban on GMOs passed in a conservative county like Josephine suggests the issue could eventually gain traction in the Legislature.
Meanwhile, Josephine County Legal Counsel Wally Hicks said that if the Legislature ever changes course to allow a ban on GMOs, the county's ordinance is technically still on the books.
"If the Legislature were to change that statue at some point ... it might make it enforceable again," he said.
For now, he added, it's "on the books — unenforceable and unenforced."
Photo from Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families.
With little notice, more than two dozen state legislatures have passed “seed-preemption laws” designed to block counties and cities from adopting their own rules on the use of seeds, including bans on GMOs, according to a list compiled by the American Seed Trade Association. Opponents say that there’s nothing more fundamental than a seed, and that now, in many parts of the country, decisions about what can be grown have been taken out of local control and put solely in the hands of the state.
“This bill should be viewed for what it is — a gag order on public debate,” says Kristina Hubbard, director of advocacy and communications at the Organic Seed Alliance, a national advocacy group, and a resident of Montana, which along with Texas passed a seed-preemption bill this year. “This thinly disguised attack on local democracy can be easily traced to out-of-state, corporate interests that want to quash local autonomy.”
Seed-preemption laws are part of a spate of legislative initiatives by industrial agriculture, including ag-gag laws passed in several states that legally prohibit outsiders from photographing farms, and “right-to-farm” laws that make it easier to snuff out complaints about animal welfare. The seed laws, critics say, are a related thrust meant to protect the interests of agro-chemical companies.
Nearly every seed-preemption law in the country borrows language from a2013 model bill drafted by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). The council is “a pay-to-play operation where corporations buy a seat and a vote on ‘task forces’ to advance their legislative wish lists,” essentially “voting as equals” with state legislators on bills, according to The Center for Media and Democracy. ALEC’s corporate members include the Koch brothers as well as some of the largest seed-chemical companies — Monsanto, Bayer, and DuPont — which want to make sure GMO bans, like those enacted in Jackson County, Oregon, and Boulder County, Colorado, don’t become a trend.
Seed-preemption laws have been adopted in 29 states, including Oregon — one of the world’s top five seed-producing regions — California, Iowa, and Colorado, according to the American Seed Trade Association. In some cases, the preemption is explicit, and in others implied and subject to interpretation. In Oregon, the bill was greenlighted in 2014 after Monsanto and Syngenta spent nearly $500,000 fighting a GMO ban in Jackson County. Monsanto, Dow AgroSciences, and Syngenta also spent more than $6.9 million opposing anti-GMO rules in three Hawaiian counties, and thousands more incampaign donations. (These companies are also involved in mergers that, if approved, would create three seed-agrochemical giants.)
Montana and Texas were the latest states to join the seed-preemption club. Farming is the largest industry in Montana, and Texas is the third-largest agricultural state in terms of production, behind California and Iowa.
Two bills that would have allowed local governments in Oregon to regulate genetically engineered crops have both died in the legislature.
Lawmakers prohibited most local governments from restricting seed in 2013, but Senate Bill 1037 and House Bill 2469 would have exempted genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, from that statewide pre-emption law.
Sen. Michael Dembrow, D-Portland, said he’s decided to let SB 1037 die during the April 13 meeting of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee, which he chairs.
A legislative deadline previously killed HB 2469 in the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
There are still too many looming questions about the extent of cross-pollination from GMOs and the efficacy of mediation aimed at promoting coexistence, Dembrow said.
“I want to get a sense if there are problems with contamination or if there are problems with the mediation process,” he said.
4/12/2017 | On April 12th, we joined friends and local Oregon farmers at the Capital for a hearing on Senate Bill (SB) 1037.
SB 1037 would restore counties' rights to protect local farmers' crops from harmful effects of GE crops. These rights were stripped in the 2013 special session with the passage of SB 863 (replacing SB 633) which created statewide preemption, prohibiting Oregon county and city governments from passing measures regulating the use of seed.
Passage of SB 1037 would provide a legislative fix for Josephine County and protect their GE crop ban passed in 2014 (Measure 17-58). Jackson County also passed a GE crop ban (Measure 15-119), but was not effected by the statewide preemption.
If this bill passes, Josephine County can join Jackson County in protecting their farmers and seeds from GE contamination, and would make Josephine County the 9th GE FREE ZONE in the United States.
Stay tuned for more updates, news, and insights from us and our friends. We also want to send a huge thank you to everyone that showed up at the hearing, submitted testimony, and shared our actions! Every little part you do makes a huge difference! Our Family Farms, Center for Food Safety, Friends of Family Farmers, Oregonians for Safe Farms and Families.
Photo courtesy of Mary MiddletonRead more
Federal law does not pre-empt state or local governments from banning genetically engineered crops that have been deregulated by USDA, according to a federal appeals court.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed an earlier ruling that held Maui County in Hawaii was prohibited from banning commercialized genetically modified organisms in 2014 because the ordinance was pre-empted by federal rules for biotechnology.
Because the USDA lacks jurisdiction over biotech crops once they’re deregulated, there is no conflict between local regulations and federal rules and laws, the 9th Circuit said.
Prohibiting states and local governments from regulating crops that were once considered plant pests would have a “backwards effect” because they can still regulate conventional crops that “raise fewer concerns,” the 9th Circuit held.
“Such a holding would have far-reaching practical effects. Because a large percentage of commercial crops grown in the United States are GE crops, states and counties across the nation would be prevented from regulating an enormous swath of agriculture. We do not believe that Congress so intended,” the ruling said.
Even so, state and local GMO bans cannot apply to biotech crops that remain regulated by USDA, since the agency retains jurisdiction over them until they’re commercialized, the 9th Circuit said.
While the 9th Circuit ruled in favor of biotech critics on federal pre-emption, Maui County’s GMO ban remains overturned under its recent ruling. The appellate court found that the ordinance was still pre-empted by Hawaii’s comprehensive state laws and rules that deal with the same subject matter of potentially harmful plants.
“By banning commercialized GE plants, the ordinance impermissibly intrudes into this area of exclusive state regulation and thus is beyond the county’s authority” under Hawaiian law, the 9th Circuit said.
The 9th Circuit’s opinion is significant for nine Western states under its jurisdiction because counties in Oregon, Washington and California have GMO bans.
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.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons.