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Lane County Oregon Campaign to Ban GMOs and Establish Local Food Sovereignty

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

A group of local activists is seeking to place an initiative on the May 2014 ballot that would ban genetically modified crops in Lane County as part of a much broader local food ordinance.

On Wednesday, Eugene-based Support Local Food Rights filed an initial petition with the Lane County clerk, a first step in what could be an obstacle-ridden path to enactment.

Public concern about genetically modified crops has grown in recent years, despite assurances from the agribusiness industry that the plants simply represent technological advances in agricultural techniques and pose no threat to human health. Sugar beets, alfafa and corn are the primary genetically modified crops grown in Oregon.

Critics argue that so-called GM crops can contaminate organic ones, can only be controlled by more-intensive pesticide use, and could pose health risks to those who consume them. They point to the discovery of illegal genetically modified wheat in Eastern Oregon in May as an example of their belief that existing federal and state regulations are insufficient.

Unlike a relatively straightforward local ban of genetically modifed crops that has qualified for the May 2014 ballot in Jackson County, the prospective initiative in Lane County is more far-reaching.

It seeks to establish a local food "bill of rights," said Ann Kneeland, an attorney for Support Local Food Rights. And it includes provisions that the ordinance supplant, in Lane County, any state or federal regulations as well as the rights of any agricultural corporation.

In a prepared statement explaining the petition, chief petitioner Lynn Bowers said Wednesday that "it's blatantly clear that we are at the mercy of agribusiness corporations."

"It is not only threatening to our health, the environment, and our local economy, but this corporate-dominated state we live in completely undermines our right to local self-government on issues as basic as the food we eat," she said.

The proposed measure's language is modeled after a similar initiative filed in Benton County earlier this year. There, the county clerk ruled it couldn't qualify for a ballot title because it didn't meet the so-called "single-subject rule" -­ a requirement that ballot measures deal only with one issue at a time. Kneeland said measure backers are challenging the clerk's ruling in court.     
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