Center for Food Safety Examining Legal Challenge to Oregon State Budget Bill
Center for Food Safety (CFS) is examining legal options to restore the rights of local governments after an amendment to prevent local regulation of genetically engineered crops was added to budget legislation, SB 863, which passed the legislature yesterday.
“Last week, Governor Kitzhaber openly acknowledged that inclusion of the damaging bill was merely a political bargaining chip. The bill’s tragic, irresponsible passage is an affront to local sovereignty and an insult to all those who value protecting Oregon’s agricultural and environmental prosperity,” said CFS senior attorney George Kimbrell, based in CFS’s Pacific Northwest office in Portland. “CFS is exploring legal options to restore the rights restricted by SB 863 in order to ensure the protection of farmers, the environment, and the organic economy.”
SB 863 strips away the rights of local communities to make locally appropriate decisions about food and agriculture, such as the regulation of genetically engineered crops. The Oregon bill was pushed at the behest of out-of-state chemical companies, and is a model bill from the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), previously introduced in other states.
“This is about protecting all farmers’ fundamental right to choose what they grow, free from transgenic contamination, and about ensuring that valuable conventional and organic crops are not threatened. Localities must be allowed to pass laws designed to protect those industries, as they have in other states. We will continue to protect Oregon’s farmers and consumers, and are exploring all legal options to restore their essential freedom,” stated Kimbrell.
Oregon ranks 5th in the nation for its number of organic farms, with more than 444 certified farms operating on over 156,000 acres as of 2010. The organic and natural food industries in Oregon have seen double-digit growth almost every year over the past decade, but are increasingly threatened by the failure of regulation in this arena, most recently highlighted by the GE wheat contamination in eastern Oregon. Local regulation of GE crops is vital to protecting the organic industry.
About Center for Food Safety
Center for Food Safety is a national, non-profit, membership organization founded in 1997 to protect human health and the environment by curbing the use of harmful food production technologies and by promoting organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture. CFS maintains offices in Washington, D.C., San Francisco, California and Portland, Oregon. More information can be found at www.centerforfoodsafety.org.