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Southern Oregon County Will Consider GM Crop Ban In 2014


Organic wheat in Jackson county, Oregon. Voters in the county will consider a ban on GMO crops in 2014

Organic wheat in Jackson county, Oregon. Voters in the county will consider a ban on GMO crops in 2014

Amelia Templeton

In November, voters in Washington’s San Juan County banned genetically modified crops. Now Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley could follow suit: a proposed ban has qualified for the 2014 Jackson County ballot.

It all began with sugar beets. A company called Syngenta Seeds grows genetically modified sugar beets in Jackson County.

Chuck Burr, who owns an organic seed company and farm in Ashland, says the pollen from sugar beets can drift and cross breed with other plants. Burr worried that his organic chard and a nearby field of genetically modified beets were swapping pollen, and threw away more than $4,000 of seed crop.

“My chard would look like a half-sugar beet, half chard. And then I can’t in good conscience sell seed to a customer that I can’t guarantee will grow true to type,” he says.

Burr says Syngenta agreed to stop planting its sugar beets near his farm, but he and a handful of other small farmers are supporting a ballot measure that would ban all genetically modified crops in Jackson County. An official with the Oregon Department of Agriculture says the proposed ban could face a legal challenge, due to an Oregon “right to farm” law.

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