Voters in Jackson and Josephine Counties voted this week to ban the cultivation of GMO crops. According to The Columbian, the measure on Jackson County’s ballot won by a 2-to-1 margin, and in Josephine County, a similar measure won with 58 percent of voters in favor of banning the cultivation of genetically modified crops within county boundaries.
In early April, Inquisitr reported that biotech firms had already donated almost 800,000 dollars to a pro-GMO political action committee that was formed to combat the Jackson County and Josephine County measures. Industry giants such as Syngenta and Monsanto donated the bulk of the money to try to convince voters in the two Oregon counties not to ban GMO cultivation.
Yet, the grass-roots efforts of anti-GMO activists and small farmers evidently paid off. Elise Higley, an organic farmer and director of Jackson County’s Our Family Farms Coalition, told Jackson Public Radio, “You know, the farmers are what really put together the campaign and we’ve never done anything like this, so it was a first time experience and I think we’re really glad to have it done.”
The Mail Tribune reported that after a room full of anti-GMO supporters erupted into cheers upon hearing the news of their victory, Higley told the crowd, “We fought the most powerful and influential chemical companies in the world, and we won.”
The GMO bans were also opposed by the Oregon Farm Bureau. The bureau supported the efforts of the political action committee Good Neighbor Farmers. The PAC’s spokesperson Ian Tolleson told JPR, “I would have to say that unfortunately, ideology defeated sound science and common sense in this election.”
The ban in Jackson County is a major victory for opponents of GMO farming, but in Josephine County, the measure may not hold up. Oregon lawmakers passed a law last session that prevented local ordinances from banning GMOs. Jackson County’s measure was already in the works when the law passed and was grandfathered in. The Columbian reported, “Josephine County opponents of GMOs went ahead with their own measure, saying they’ll let the courts decide if the vote is valid.”
The ban in Jackson County effectively bans genetically engineered crops from being planted, and any GE crops in fields currently will need to be cleared from county fields within 12 months, though lawsuits are expected. Supporters of the Jackson and Josephine County measures across the nation are celebrating the ban on the GMO-Free Josephine County, GMO Free Jackson County, and GMO Free Oregon Facebook pages and on other social media platforms.