Thursday, October 1, 2015

Local Oregon GMO Ban Faces Legal Challenge

Written by Tyler R. Etter

On September 4, 2015, two local farmers in Oregon’s Josephine County filed a lawsuit to overturn a local ban on the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops. The ban was to be enforced beginning on September 5, but officials decided to delay enforcement while the lawsuit is pending.

The ban was originally approved in May of 2014. Farmers would be required to self-report if they were growing GM crops, and then submit a phase-out plan. Robert and Shelley Ann White, the farmers challenging the law, had devoted part of their farm to growing GM crops before the ordinance was passed. They claim that the law poses an immediate threat and irreparable injury due to the ban. They reportedly leased the land specifically to grow GM crops, such as sugar beets, for seed.

The basis of the legal challenges rests on the assertion that the ban is in direct violation of state law. Legislation was approved in October of 2013 that forbade local governments from imposing additional laws or regulations that would regulate farm practices, include GM bans. Only one county was given exemption, Jackson County. The Jackson County ban is also facing an ongoing legal challenge. The presiding judge found the ban wasn't preempted by state law, but has yet to decide if the farmer is entitled to damages for the ban's enactment.

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