Benton County voters will decide in May whether or not to approve a proposed ordinance prohibiting the cultivation of genetically engineered crops in the county and banning the use of genetically modified organisms. Measure 2-89, the Local Food System Ordinance of Benton County, Oregon, asserts rights to natural communities, such as soils and water resources, and to a sustainable agricultural system free from any influence by genetically modified organisms.
The measure absolves Benton County residents from any liability for the “inadvertent infection” of crops by GMOs or other patented traits. It requires that any plantings of GMOs crops in the county be removed within 90 days of the passage of the ordinance and empowers citizens and the Benton County Commission to enforce the law.
While Oregon State University officials have stated that the proposal may affect all research with GMOs at the university, proponents of the measure contend that only GMOs planted in open fields would be covered.
Among the questions to be discussed:
1. What are the legal foundations for the conflicting interpretations of impact on OSU research?
2. How does the ordinance define the rights of natural communities, and how will those rights be enforced?
3. How are disputes between farmers currently resolved?
4. How many acres are planted to GMO crops in Benton County?
5. What are the costs of banning GMOs, and what are the costs of allowing them to exist in proximity to conventional crops?
6. Does the proposed ordinance apply to other parts of the local food system?
Speakers will include Rich Holdren, Oregon State University Research Office; Debbie Crocker, Benton County farmer; Clint Lindsey, former Benton County farmer and co-author of measure 2-89; and Mary King, Benton Food Freedom.
PLEASE NOTE: This City Club meeting will be held at the Corvallis-Benton County Public Library from 7 to 9 pm on Monday, April 27. Attendance is free and open to the public, and there is no need to register. Speakers will have up to seven minutes for an opening statement followed by a question-and-answer period.