Ruling Protects Organic Farmers, ‘GM-Free’ Zones in Jackson County, Oregon

Ruling Protects Organic Farmers, ‘GM-Free’ Zones in Jackson County, Oregon

Residents in Oregon have been trying to deflect genetically modified crops on their land for years, with numerous counties taking action against the genetically engineered crops. Recently, after some back-and-forth concerning GMO farming, a ruling was finally made that, while not perfect, is a win for farmers growing non-GM crops in Jackson County, Oregon.

The ruling was issued in response to an ongoing case in which 2 GE alfalfa farmers challenged a 2014 ordinance prohibiting GE crop cultivation. The 2 farmers sought to overturn the GM ban on the grounds that it violated Oregon law.

Now, the alfalfa farmers who sued will still be able to grow GM crops that were already planted as of the time the proposed ban was put in place. What’s more, the farmers have 8 years before they have to pull up the genetically modified alfalfa they’ve already sown. However, they cannot plant any new GM crops.

As reported by the Center for Food Safety on December 22, 2015:

“Today a Federal Judge in Oregon approved a consent decree, or court-approved settlement, protecting Jackson County Oregon’s ‘GE-free’ zone, created by an Ordinance that prohibits genetically engineered (GE) crop cultivation in the county. Two GE alfalfa farmers, with financial backing from the biotechnology industry, had challenged the law late last year, saying it violating existing Oregon State law. In May, Federal Judge Mark D. Clarke resoundingly rejected that challenge and instead ruled in favor of those defending the law, the Our Family Farms Coalition (OFFC), Center for Food Safety (CFS), and the County. “

George Kimbrell, CFS Senior Attorney and counsel in the court case, says:

“Today’s settlement protects Jackson County’s ordinance from any appeal, and in so doing is another important victory for farmers and the environment. GE-Free Zones like Jackson County are important to the future of our food because they allow farmers to grow traditional and organic crops without risk of transgenic contamination. U.S. farmers and consumers have a right to say no to Monsanto’s damaging and pesticide-driven business model.”

Kimbrell continued:

“Until we have those restrictions on a federal level, until we have liability on the patent holder for contamination, then we need these zones in order to have any alternative to the current dominant paradigm of the GE crop systems.”

Jackson County’s case is noteworthy because it showcases the importance and ability of local, non-GMO-growing farmers to practice their rights by adopting laws to protect their crops from contamination.