There's been a huge grassroots victory for Oregon farmers and campaigners as two counties in the state have voted to ban GMO plantings.
Jackson County Oregon votes to BAN GMOs
66% YES 34% NO w/99% reporting
Josephine County Oregon votes to BAN GMOs
58% YES 42% NO
Measures to ban most GMO crops passing in Jackson, Josephine counties
By Yuxing Zheng
oregonlive.com, 20 May 2014
A controversial Jackson County measure to ban most genetically engineered crops passed, as did a similar measure in next-door Josephine County, according to unofficial returns Tuesday night.
Jackson County's Measure 15-119 has attracted more than $1.3 million to the southern Oregon county with about 206,000 residents. That includes $455,000 donated to the opposition campaign from six biotechnology and agriculture companies, including Monsanto and Syngenta.
"We fought the most powerful and influential chemical companies in the world and we won," said Elise Higley, a Jackson County farmer with the anti-GMO group Our Family Farms Coalition.
Higley said her county will now be a safe haven against the pollen-creep of genetically modified crops.
"Regrettably ideology defeated sound science and common sense in Jackson County," said Barry Bushue, president of the Oregon Farm Bureau and spokesman for Good Neighbor Farmers, in a news release.
"We respect the voice of the voters," Bushue said, "but remain convinced Measure 15-119 – the crop ban – is bad public policy. While this election is over, this debate is not. We will continue to fight to protect the rights of all farmers to choose for themselves how they farm."
The Jackson County measure and the one in Josephine County have managed to hit on some of the most hot-button issues in Oregon: property rights, local control, and scarce resources for former timber-reliant counties.
The no-GMO measure in Jackson County passed with 66 percent of the vote, according to a tally of more than 45,000 voters. The vote against GMO crops in Josephine County passed with 57 percent, according to partial returns.
Both sides focused on the Jackson County measure because it might be the sole opportunity in Oregon for a legal, enforceable measure to pass.
The Oregon Legislature in October passed a bill during a special session that named the state as the regulator of seeds. The law exempted Jackson County, where the crops measure had already qualified for the May ballot.
In Josephine County, it's unclear whether a successful measure could be enforced because it was placed on the ballot after the new law took effect.
-- Yuxing Zheng and Bryan Denson