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Rural Oregon Voters Ban GMO Crops as Biotech Companies Fight Food Labels

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

Voters in two small Oregon counties on Tuesday approved controversial ballot measures to ban cultivation of genetically engineered crops within their boundaries, though one measure is vulnerable to legal challenge under a new state law.

The measure in Jackson County in southern Oregon, garnering “yes” votes from 66 percent of voters there, has drawn national attention and more than $1 million in campaign funding to the community, which has just 117,650 registered voters.

The ban is supported by a coalition of more than 180 farmers and community members, who have been pushing for the vote on the issue for more than two years.

“It’s a great day for the people of Oregon who care about sustainability and healthy ecosystems,” the group GMO Free Oregon declared on its Facebook page after the results.

Opponents conceded defeat but said the debate would continue.

“We respect the voice of the voters, but remain convinced … the crop ban is bad public policy,” said Barry Bushue, president of the Oregon Farm Bureau.

“We will continue to fight to protect the rights of all farmers to choose for themselves how they farm.”

Supporters say the area’s organic and conventional crops are in danger of contamination by genetically engineered crops, which are typically altered to withstand pesticides or resist insect damage. They also fear widespread use of pesticides associated with the crops.

“We are either going to choose the chemical corporations for agriculture or we are going to choose our family farms,” local farmer Chris Hardy, a grower of beets and Swiss chard who helped start the initiative, said earlier in the day.

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