The local fight against genetically modified crops is on. Citizens’ group Support Local Food Rights (SLFR) submitted a local food system ordinance to the Lane County clerk. The initiative would ban the planting of genetically modified (GM) crops and establish the right to a local food system.
Opponents of GM crops are concerned with a host of issues: increased pesticide use, the lack of a long-term study of their safety for consumption and unwanted cross-pollination ruining local organic crops and causing unintentional patent infringement.
Attorney Ann Kneeland of SLFR says that communities should have the right to protect local agriculture, which GM crops endanger financially and legally. “They are a technology that contaminates other crops, and without protections to keep those crops out of areas where conventional and organic crops are being grown, those other crops are not safe,” she says. After contamination with GM varieties, organic crops are no longer vendible as organic, and all farms can be sued for growing patented crops.
Perhaps the best-known GM crops are Monsanto’s Roundup Ready varieties of soybeans, alfalfa, corn, canola, cotton and sugar beets. These crops are engineered to tolerate Monsanto’s Roundup pesticide, which GM opponents say results in more pesticide use.
Increased pesticide usage on GM crops in the Corn Belt has killed off the weaker varieties of pests and weeds, leaving only the pesticide-resistant organisms to breed, which leads to more usage of pesticides like Roundup. “What’s happened is that pests and weeds are becoming increasingly resistant to pesticides because of the repeated use of the very same pesticides,” Kneeland says.
A group in Benton County filed a similar ordinance, but the county clerk rejected it, saying it covers too many issues, a violation of the single-subject rule. Kneeland says that if Lane County’s clerk rejects it, SLFR will appeal.
Kneeland says that GM sugar beets are currently Lane County’s only GM crop. “There’s every reason to suspect that other GM crops would be introduced over time if we don’t take some action to curb their use,” she adds.
To learn more about protecting local agriculture from a GM invasion, see Paul Cienfuegos speak from 3:15 to 4 pm Saturday about the community rights movement at the Bite of Eugene’s Mountain Rose Herbs Food as Medicine Pavilion in Alton Baker Park.