Eugene activists seek vote to ban GMO crops

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EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Voters in a second Oregon county could face a ballot measure next year to bar genetically modified crops, but a proposal that Eugene activists brought forward this week is broader than a measure Jackson County voters will decide in May.

A proposed food “bill of rights” is in the ballot measure Eugene activists filed with the Lane County clerk on Wednesday, the Register-Guard reported.

It would supplant state and federal regulations, as well as the rights of any agricultural corporations, said Ann Kneeland, an attorney for Support Local Food Rights.

In that, it resembles an initiative earlier this year in Benton County, but the county clerk said it couldn’t qualify for the ballot because of the “single subject rule” that requires measures to deal with one issue at a time.

The chief petitioner in Lane County, Lynn Bowers, said in a statement the power of agribusiness corporations “is not only threatening to our health, the environment, and our local economy, but this corporate-dominated state we live in completely undermines our right to local self-government on issues as basic as the food we eat.”

If the Lane County measure gets on the ballot, voters would decide it in May, at the same time as the narrower ban proposed in Jackson County.

The Jackson County measure would ban growing genetically modified crops, with exceptions for research. It would call on the county to do inspections and allow enforcement through citizen lawsuits.

John DiLorenzo, an attorney for Oregonians for Food and Shelter, which represents timber interests, farmers and pesticide manufacturers, said that while he hadn’t seen the language in the Lane County measure, the Benton County proposal was an “amalgamation of a whole variety of ideas and concepts.”

The single-subject rule prevents “voters from having to cast a single vote in favor several different ideas which they might not all support,” he said.

One reason for pushing for a broader measure, Kneeland said, is that a simpler countywide ban may not survive a legal challenge: Oregon’s “Right to Farm” law protects all generally accepted farm practices from being infringed upon by local governments.

Lane County officials have five days to determine whether the petition can advance and have a ballot title drafted.