Last year, local farmers and supporters of organic food raised alarms about the effects of genetically modified organism (GMO) crops and collected thousands of signatures to refer a local ban on GMO crops to voters. Their ballot measure would protect Southern Oregon from GMO crops that threaten a growing organic farming industry and our way of life. Yet as we speak, families, farmers and business owners are fighting against proposed legislation that would remove Jackson County’s control over the direction we take with local agriculture and our economy.
As elected officials representing Jackson County, we have actively fought against Senate Bill 633, which would give control of seeds and crops to the state and remove local control on this vital issue. Unsurprisingly, the bill is supported by powerful outside lobbyists and companies that would benefit from removing local control. There are grave economic, health, and policy reasons we should defeat SB 633 and retain local control on the issue of GMOs. We testified against the bill in a recent committee hearing, and are actively building an opposition coalition in both the Senate and House.
There are three reasons in particular we are fighting against this bill. First, we believe strongly that the decision to allow GMO crops should be decided by local voters and that Jackson County should retain local control.
Second, this is a clear economic and jobs issue. The organic farming industry is fast growing in Southern Oregon, employing hundreds in our community. Businesses like Amy’s Kitchen have brought hundreds of jobs in our area, and businesses like theirs rely on organic farming to employ people throughout the Rogue Valley. Losing our stake in this booming industry would mean lost jobs, economic opportunities, and dollars that can go directly to local schools and public services.
Finally, local farmers have a right to grow organic crops; farming is part of our way of life here. Agricultural land in our area is made up of narrow valleys, making it impossible to prevent pollen from GMO crops from contaminating the crops of local farms that have been here for decades. Once organic crops are contaminated, farmers face only the option of losing their crop or growing GMO crops. GMO crops threaten Southern Oregon’s way of life and our local farms.
We urge you to continue to contact legislators in Salem in opposition to SB 633, as so many of you have already done on this critical issue. We will continue fighting against this bill on behalf of local farmers, families, and Jackson County’s way of life – together, we hope to defeat this legislation.