Organic wheat in Jackson County, Oregon. Voters in the county chose to ban GMO crops in 2014

Organic wheat in Jackson County, Oregon. Voters in the county chose to ban GMO crops in 2014

Amelia Templeton/OPB

Some Oregon farming groups want counties to regulate or even ban genetically engineered crops. The state Legislature took away that right in 2013 during a special session.

At the time, opponents of genetically engineered crops were told that a statewide policy would be forthcoming.

Elise Higley, director of the group Our Family Farms, said she’s tired of waiting for the state to act.

“We are saying we want action now,” Higley said. “And if you can’t get it together in four years, we want that responsibility and that back. We want to deal with it on our own.”

The measure would allow genetically engineered crops to be regulated by local officials or by county initiatives.

Voters in Jackson County approved a ban on such crops in 2014 that was permitted to take effect because it had qualified for the ballot before lawmakers took the decision out of the hands of local communities. Voters in another county, Josephine, also banned genetically engineered crops in 2014. But their ban was never enforced since it didn’t qualify for the ballot until after lawmakers passed the statewide preemption law.

The preemption law was part of a carefully negotiated package of bills in a special session. The package also included cost-cutting changes to the state’s public pension system. Many of the pension changes were later thrown out by the Oregon Supreme Court.