Organic Consumers Association

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GMO Ban: Jackson County's New Law Exposes Cultural Rift on the Future of Farming

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Genetic Engineering page, Millions Against Monsanto page and our Oregon  News page.

Violet alfalfa flowers dance in the afternoon wind in golden Sams Valley in southern Oregon, where Bruce Schulz's family has farmed for four generations.

Schulz, 51, stands on the family's 250-acre farm, in front of the white house his mom has lived in for 56 years. He points to a white and green house across the road, where his father grew up, and his house a quarter-mile west behind a patch of trees.

Now things are changing. Within the next year, Schulz said, he'll have to destroy the alfalfa because it's genetically altered and won't be allowed in Jackson County under a measure passed in last week's election.

"It'll break me," said Schulz, figuring he'll lose 30 percent of his gross income after plowing under crops he was counting on for five to eight more years. "That means we don't have enough money to pay all the bills."

The county's new ban on most GMO crops, approved 2-to-1 despite nearly $1 million spent by opponents, has deepened a cultural chasm in the greater Rogue Valley, exposing fundamental divisions about where Oregon agriculture should head.

Opponents say their livelihoods are under threat. They openly resent the growing influence of organic farmers, many of whom they say are recent California transplants who brought their liberal political activism with them.

Supporters hail the measure as a victory for small, independent farmers and say it will be an economic boon for the county's economy. They also say it's important to keep GMO crops from contaminating neighboring organic farms.   
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