Pages tagged "Seed Sanctuary"
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.
The amendment would also ensure that patent holders cannot transfer liability to farmers who cultivate GMOs, though they could transfer liability to seed companies.
"It's putting the onus on the producers and people who sell these crops rather that grow them," said Amy van Saun, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety, a non-profit that supports HB 2739.
By making patent holders liable for unwanted GMO presence — either through cross-pollination or seed dispersal — the bill reduces potential conflicts among farmers, said Elise Higley, executive director of the Our Family Farms Coalition, which supports HB 2739.
"We don't believe the GE farmer should be held responsible when they follow all the rules," Higley said during a May 23 legislative hearing.
Biotech crops have "tracer genes" to identify patent holders, eliminating confusion about the source of an unwanted GMO, she said. "There's no arguing about it. It's just black and white science."
Critics of HB 2739 believe the underlying goal of the proposal is to stop production of GMOs in Oregon.
For developers of genetically engineered crops, the risk of lawsuits would likely outweigh the benefits of licensing biotech traits to growers in the state, opponents say.
From our friends at Our Family Farms -- "Join us Saturday, May 20th at Caldera Tap House in Downtown Ashland to celebrate our 3rd Birthday! Come by between 3:30 and 5:30 for cake and light appetizers and Raise a glass to toast our Victory!"
Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/120366261851946Read more
April 19th, 2017 | Valley 106.3 Morning Show Host, Paul Gerardi, talks to Chris Hardy, local farmer, activist, and owner of Hardy Seeds, who also serves on the board for Southern Oregon Organic Seed Growers’ Association. Paul and Chris discuss the status of Non-GMO initiatives old and new, and about Chris' talk at The Hearth on Thursday April 20th.
Source: Paul Gerardi on SoundCloud
Photo by Chris Hardy.
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
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.