A Not-So-Special Result from the Oregon Legislature’s Special Session

Oregon capitolThe Oregon Legislature convened on September 30 for what was supposed to be a one-day session to resolve some matters related to PERS and revenue reform. As many of you no doubt heard, the process was tarnished by the last-minute addition of a bill to remove local control of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) crops. The Sierra Club was dismayed by this development, but we worked with our allies to try and stop that bill. Unfortunately, because it was attached to the must-pass package of spending bills, the bill went through anyway (our coalition’s statement upon passage is below). While that result was certainly disappointing, we do hope that the Governor’s promise to meaningfully address the issues at a statewide level will bring about some real action on the regulation and labeling of GMOs in Oregon.

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October 2, 2013

The rights of farmers to protect their crops from unwanted GMO contamination and the rights of consumers to make informed purchases should never have been at issue during a special session dealing with PERS and revenue reform. Trading away environmental protections in unrelated legislative negotiations is an all too common practice that’s bad for not just democracy but also the people of Oregon. Unfortunately, the PERS and revenue reform package included SB 863, which prohibits local communities from taking action to address issues related to their food and agriculture system, including conflicts related to genetically modified organisms.

While we strongly opposed SB 863 and its inclusion in the unrelated legislative package, we are encouraged by the governor’s commitment to making real, substantive progress on GMO issues across Oregon.

The governor committed to developing a statewide policy that prevents GMO contamination of non-GMO crops under existing Department of Agriculture authority by June 2014. He will also convene a special task force that will provide expert recommendations on state policy and on legislation that will be introduced in 2015 to address liability and compensation issues related to GMO contamination and consumers’ right to know what’s in their food.

While the legislature should never have agreed to remove the ability of local communities to have a say on GMO issues that affect them, we’re looking forward to working with both the governor and legislative leaders in creating a robust statewide policy that seeks to prevent GMO contamination, address compensation for farmers affected by GMO contamination, and protect Oregonians’ rights to make informed food purchasing decisions.

Oregon Environmental Council

Oregon League of Conservation Voters

Friends of Family Farmers

Organically Grown Company

Oregon Tilth

Sierra Club

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