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Proposed Oregon Legislation Would Allow Communities to Protect Farmers’ Traditional Crops from Contamination by Genetically Engineered Crops

January 19, 2016
Center for Food Safety

Salem, OR – With backing from groups representing family farmers and food advocates, Oregon Representative Paul Holvey has introduced legislation that would give local governments back the right to protect farmers growing traditional crops from contamination by genetically engineered crops. The Transgenic Contamination Prevention Bill (HB 4122) would repeal parts of Senate Bill 863, which was passed in 2013 under an emergency session called by former Governor John Kitzhaber. That bill, which was pushed by interests heavily invested in genetically engineered crops, pre-empted local governments from taking actions to protect family farmers facing the threat of contamination from genetically engineered crops. 

“This bill is a chance for local governments to protect family farmers with laws that are specific to the local conditions where they farm,” explained Ivan Maluski, Policy Director for Friends of Family Farmers. “The proposed bill would let local communities decide what laws are appropriate to protect farmers growing traditional crops given the growing conditions that exist at that community level.”

Elise Higley, a farmer from Jackson County, Oregon who is Executive Director of the Our Family Farms Coalition agreed. “Until we created an agricultural zone free of genetically engineered crops in Jackson County, our seed crops were at risk of being destroyed by contamination from genetically engineered crops. Local governments and voters need the power to be able to adopt local measures, including bans on genetically engineered crops that protect high-priority seed growing regions, or we will lose our ability to grow traditional crops.”

“Consumers want to be able to buy food that has not been genetically engineered, and part of that is making sure farmers can grow crops that are not contaminated by genetically engineered crops," says George Kimbrell, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety. "Farmers deserve the right to grow crops and harvest seeds that have not been contaminated by genetically engineered crops and the state has no rational basis for prohibiting local governments from protecting farmers from GE crops."

Regarding HB 4122 Rep. Holvey asserts, “Family Farmers need protection to prevent their crops from being contaminated.”

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