A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Benton GMO ban: Weird notions

Written April 14th, 2015 by Hasso Hering
Any GMOs in this Benton County field? I don't know and don't care.

The countryside of Benton County, where an anti-GMO measure is on the ballot.

You don’t have to know anything about growing plants for seed to realize that Benton County Ballot Measure 2-89 is nothing but trouble. All you have to do is read the summary in the Benton County Voters’ Pamphlet.

You can read about the measure on the county’s website under elections, or you can wait for the pamphlet to show up in your mailbox later this month. The election will take place in May and end on May 19.

This initiative purports to ban genetically modified organisms (GMO) from Benton County fields and gardens. Considering that some countries have banned GMO products, local seed growers who export to those countries have a legitimate worry that their crops might be inadvertently contaminated. And if that’s all the measure covered, its merits could be defended.

Instead, though, the proposal tries to establish a series of “rights,” including the right to a “local food system,” a right to “seed heritage,” and the right of “natural communities” to exist and maintain themselves. Natural communities would include “terrestrial and aquatic systems.” Some of the opponents, who include the Benton County commissioners, the Farm Bureau and researchers at Oregon State University, surmise that this would attempt to establish that trees or other plants might acquire “rights” that private citizens could bring suit to enforce. As though we didn’t have enough trouble with environmental zealots on the legal front.

Another odd aspect of this measure is that it declares its provisions would be superior to any state and federal laws on the subject. Sorry, guys, that isn’t so. Some of us may wish sometimes to exempt ourselves from laws made in Salem and D.C. I wish we could, but we can’t.

Benton voters can save the county a lot of trouble — in the courts and otherwise — by voting this proposal down. (hh)

8 responses to “Benton GMO ban: Weird notions”

  1. HowlingCicada says:

    Some people (mostly Democrats and Greens) want to give “rights” to natural communities. Some people (mostly Republicans and Constitutionalists) want to give “rights” to day-old human embryos. Some people (mostly Libertarians I guess, but not so sure any more) don’t want to give “rights” to either.

    And, looks like some people (academics, politicians, and journalists) just want all this to go away.

  2. Bill Kapaun says:

    Wouldn’t this technically ban plants such as hybrid roses, tomatoes etc?
    At what point in history is a hybrid plant NOT considered GM?

  3. Gary Richards says:

    So instead of rights given to residents of an area that engage in a business activity the rights are instead granted to a far distant corporate entity so they can make profits that damage a local industry – really? At what point do we stop giving privilege to corporate interests at the expense of hard working Americans?

  4. Gary Richards says:

    And is it being said that all of these County Sheriffs in Oregon (and throughout the nation) that refuse to enact state and federal legislation on gun control are not within their right to do so?

    If that is the case then each and every one of them needs to lose their badges and positions and go directly to jail for being in violation of laws they are sworn, whether they like them or not, to uphold.

    • Bill Kapaun says:

      I guess that means we also need to lock up every cop that didn’t write a traffic ticket when they “could” have.

    • James Carrick says:

      Mr. Richards, Two important things for you to consider. First, Sheriffs do not “enact” laws. They ENFORCE them. Enacting laws falls to the legislatures involved. Second, Sheriffs cannot be compelled to enforce FEDERAL laws. That responsibility falls to the Federal law enforcement agencies. The following is from a letter to the editor of the Albany Democrat Herald that I wrote and was published on January 25th, 2013. Nothing has happened since then on the legal front to change the situation.

      “[T]he Federal Government may neither issue directives requiring the States to address particular problems, nor command the State’s officers, or those of their political subdivisions, to administer or enforce a federal regulation.” Printz v. United States, 521 U.S. 898, 935 (1997)

      County sheriffs, an enforcement arm of one such political subdivision, have taken oaths to uphold the Constitution, as well as enforce the laws under their jurisdiction.

      While there seems to be nothing prohibiting a sheriff from enforcing federal statutes (or executive orders), neither is a sheriff or any other state or local law enforcement agency compelled or required, nor is it their sworn duty, to enforce federal laws and/or regulations.

      That’s why federal enforcement agencies exist: to enforce federal laws falling under their (federal) jurisdiction.” link to complete letter: http://democratherald.com/news/opinion/mailbag/mailbag-it-s-about-jurisdiction/article_b1e5dba0-666f-11e2-acae-0019bb2963f4.html

      I’m sorry you don’t like the law as it stands now. I guess you’ll just have to work to change it. Have right at it. I’ll be working just as hard, or harder, to see that our 2nd Amendment rights are maintained. ALL OF THEM!

  5. George Pugh says:

    Having read the almost 5 pages of Measure 2-89 several times my first conclusion is that they must be kidding. But the proponents were able to get enough signatures to place it on the ballet so one has to take the measure seriously.
    As a farmer, although not in Benton county, I am trying to identify who would be at risk with the passage of 2-89. First that comes to mind are the sugar beet seed producers as about 90% of their production (and the market) is genetically manipulated to be glyphosate resistant. And their market is international. And then there are the dairy farmers who raise a good portion of their feed stocks in the form of corn that has been glyphosate and insect resistance enhanced. The beet growers will lose a lucrative crop and the dairies will have their cost of production raised.
    And at a greater financial and social cost are the restrictions that would be imposed on research at OSU as well as private research.
    But when I got to Section 8 Definitions I find that I am in their shotgun pattern too. Our farm owns a small seed company that markets nationally and internationally and are not a “far distant” corporation. Definition (g) defines “Trans-genetic risk seeds” not only as those “that have been genetically modifies” but also “or patented.” As a seed production and marketing company we contract with some good farmers in Benton county to produce for us our patented and licensed varieties, both annuals and perennial. Patents protect us from having the genetics we have labored to develop pirated and marketed against us. According to M 2-89 we will have to remove those crops within 90 days after the “effective date” of its passage.

    While the authors of M 2-89 enumerate the rights of their fellow travelers, they tramp on rights of many of their neighbors.


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