Jackson County needs local control over genetically modified crops

Alan Bates

Sen. Alan Bates

For years, one of the Rogue Valley’s most important and valuable economic sectors has been agriculture. As a former hay farmer myself, I know that farming is a local tradition, an economic driver, and a huge part of our way of life. Businesses like organic food processor Amy’s Kitchen have brought hundreds of jobs to Southern Oregon, and businesses like theirs that rely on organic farming employ people throughout the Rogue Valley. The industry is fast-growing in Southern Oregon and has huge potential to bring more jobs to our area.

Last year, local farmers and supporters of organic food raised alarms about the effects of genetically modified organisms (GMO) crops. These concerns are many and varied, but some of the concern stems from health-related issues, as well as concerns about the contamination of organic crops by GMO seeds.

To address these issues, citizens of Jackson County gathered thousands of signatures to place the issue before voters on the May 2014 ballot in the form of a ban on GMO crops. But a bill in the legislature, SB 633, would remove the right of Jackson County citizens to decide the issue and give that control to the state. Earlier this week, I testified against SB 633 and offered amendments that would recognize that what’s best for a distant Willamette Valley is not necessarily what’s best for the Rogue Valley. I believe strongly that the decision to allow GMO crops should be decided by local voters and that Jackson County should retain local control.

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