In June of last year, a group of Jackson County residents took matters into their own hands by committing what the FBI called “economic sabotage.” In just two nights’ time, around 6,000 genetically modified beets were destroyed on separate plots of land just outside the city of Ashland, according to the FBI statement.
This sudden and unforeseen act of rebellion against genetically modified organisms, better known as GMO crops, sparked national attention and stirred up conversation in the county. Shortly afterward, a group of concerned citizens drafted what would later be known as Measure 15-119, a citizen initiative that would effectively ban the growth of genetically engineered plants in Jackson County. GMO here refers to an organism whose genes have been genetically manipulated in order to achieve specific physiological traits or biological products from the organism.
More than 6,700 signatures were collected to put this measure on the ballot, and the issue will go to the voters this year in the May 20th, 2014 election.
Jackson County can be found nestled within the Rogue Valley; a relatively small region where the largest cities include Medford and Ashland. More than 10,000 acres of land in Jackson County are used for growing a variety of crops such as pears, berries, tomatoes, corn, oat, and wine grapes. Recently, concern from both the public and the farmers in the region has been voiced over an uninvited guest growing in the area: genetically modified sugar beets.
Residents learned in early 2012 that Syngenta, a Swiss biotechnology company, was growing GM beets within their county. Citizens across Jackson County began to question the effects of growing genetically modified seeds in a region that prides itself on its cultivation of organic and heirloom seeds.