In recent news, Jackson County, Oregon successfully passed a GMO ban after a group of local petitioners in the Oregon area (called GMO-Free Jackson County) filed petitions with over 6,700 signatures in January of 2013. The initiative also called on the county to provide inspections and allow enforcement through citizen lawsuits.
No surprise, Monsanto attempted to overturn the ban with a lawsuit of their own, but a federal judge recently declared that the GMO ban will stand.
As ruled by US Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke, the Jackson County Oregon GMO ban is not pre-empted by the state’s “right to farm” law, thereby allowing the ordinance to become effective. On June 5 it will become law.
Judge Clarke acknowledged that GE crops pose a considerable commercial threat to non-biotech growers, which was a key issue in the litigation. George Kimbrell with the Center for Food Safety, a group critical of biotech crops, said:
“This case is a resounding affirmation of the right of farmers to protect themselves from Genetically Engineered contamination.”
The two farmers who opposed the anti-GMO ordinance and brought forth the lawsuit cited the Oregon Right to Farm Act that protects farmers from neighbors who might complain about noise, smells, dust, and other farming practices.
But the Judge responded:
“While farming practices may not be limited by a suburbanite’s sensitivities, they may be limited if they cause damage to another farm’s crops.”
In effect of this ruling, farmers who already have genetically engineered crops can harvest this year, but must remove the crops within 12 months.
In another still-active case, the biotech backed farmers are trying to receive $4.2 million in compensation from the county. They argue that forcing them to remove about 300 acres of herbicide-resistant “Roundup Ready” alfalfa amounts to the county condemning their property for public use, which requires just compensation.
But others are elated by the news. Said Elise Higley, a Jackson County farmer and the director of Our Family Farms Coalition, “We are elated and could not have hoped for a better outcome. Family farmers should not have to live in fear that our farms will be contaminated by genetically engineered crops.”
Kimbrell shared his comments on the big-win:
“This important decision protects the farmers of Jackson County, but also will stand as a precedent for the rights of farmers and communities across the United States to create GMO-free zones to protect the future of our food.”
While this recent ruling is perceived to be a big win and should rightly be celebrated, non-GMO advocates expect even more litigation will follow soon in the future.
“The ruling will be challenged before the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals,” said George Kimbrell, senior attorney for the group.
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