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GMO Task Force Scheduled to Meet in April: Oregon's Monsanto Protection Act under Fire

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Genetic Engineering Page, Millions Against Monsanto Page and our Oregon News Page.

Six months ago, as part of his "grand bargain" public retirement and tax package, Gov. John Kitzhaber demanded passage of a last-minute bill prohibiting local jurisdictions from regulating genetically modified crops and seeds.

If lawmakers didn't pass the bill, Kitzhaber said, he would veto the whole package.

To soften the blow, Kitzhaber wrote a letter to legislative leaders promising to convene a GMO task force that would recommend legislation for the 2015 session and would oversee a Department of Agriculture plan, to be completed by June, for mapping where and when GMO crops are grown and providing buffers and exclusion zones.

So far, the task force has yet to be named.

Kitzhaber's office has said the task force won't recommend legislation after all.

"The likelihood of achieving any consensus recommendation on any of these issues is not very good," Richard Whitman, the governor's natural resources policy adviser told a legislative committee in February.

And the Department of Agriculture has not started work on the plan.

"We're waiting for the task force to be announced. That's the first step before we move forward," agriculture spokesman Bruce Pokarney said last week."If the task force meets and that's something that's determined we still need to do, then we'll meet that deadline."

The governor's spokeswoman, Rachel Wray, said there is one task force member left to confirm, and spring break is slowing that down. The task force will begin meeting in April, she said.

"These policy conversations were an important part of the agreement that led to the passage of last fall's compromise legislation to get more money for education," said Jared Mason-Gere, spokesman for House Speaker Tina Kotek. "The inclusion of those elements from the governor's letter were critical to pull the whole package together,"