Wednesday, April 30, 2014

GMO-free initiatives in Jackson and Josephine Counties draw national attention—and big money | The Organic & Non-GMO Report

GMO-free initiatives in Jackson and Josephine Counties draw national attention—and big money | The Organic & Non-GMO Report:

In Oregon, two county initiatives have taken on epic proportions as the Grocery Manufacturers Association, backed by Monsanto and other food and biotech giants, pours in more than $900,000 to defeat a measure that would ban cultivation of genetically modified crops in both counties.
That’s not surprising to Chris Hardy, an organic farmer in Ashland who spearheaded GMO Free Jackson County in 2012, after sustaining losses of his chard seed due to illegal contamination from Syngenta’s GM sugar beets. Measure 15-119, which will be voted on May 20th by mail-in ballot, would make it illegal to grow genetically engineered crops in Jackson County.
“Oregon and Washington produce 80% of US chard and beet seeds—mostly Oregon,” Hardy said. “If we don’t protect our family farms and farmers on this, the future is: Welcome to Monsanto!”
In next-door Josephine County, Karen Daggett Austin says the focus of GMO Crop Restriction Measure 17-58 (also on the May 20th ballot) is to protect the health of its community and local family farms. It would prohibit growing of GM crops and also “maintain and protect seed sovereignty and local control” of agriculture, environment, public health, and more.
“We three co-founders of GMO Free Josephine County are all moms—I’m a grandmother—and we’re worried about cross contamination with our local farms and gardens, as well as the toxic impacts the heavier pesticide use will have on our rivers, ground water and future generations,” Austin Says.

Farmers abandon risky crops

Hardy knows firsthand the price farmers are paying by sharing the valley with GMOs. He lost a contract in 2013 because of contamination concerns, and had to till his chard crop under. “Most Rogue Valley farmers have discontinued growing chard and table beets—our mainstay—because of risk,” he says.
In the narrow valleys, wind can carry GM pollen for miles. And with the deregulation of GM sugar beets in July 2012, separation distance requirements no longer exist.
Elise Higley, campaign manager for 15-119 and operator of a 113-acre organic farm in Applegate Valley, said, “Our customers do not want plants that produce their own pesticides. What they want is food with integrity.”

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