Major Victory for Organic Non-GMO Farmers in Southern Oregon
May 24, 2014, 3:00am

By Jane Ayers, Reader Supported News

Last night’s election results rocked Southern Oregon’s Rogue Valley in celebration, as local non-GMO farmers won Measure 15-119, banning all GMOs from the Southern Oregon region of Jackson County. In the adjoining Josephine County, farmers also won their own initiative to ban GMOs.

This precedent-setting outcome makes these counties the first in the state of Oregon, and in the nation, to ban the growing of genetically engineered crops, “despite record-breaking spending by Monsanto, Syngenta, Dow, and other chemical giants,” according to Our Family Farm Coalition, one of the local grassroots organizations.

In the Ashland and Medford area, 65.90% of the Rogue Valley voted to ban the GMOs. This percentage amounted to 35,948 votes for the ban on GMOs versus 20,432 votes (34.21%) against the measure, and in favor of GMOs. The financials for the entire campaign showed approximately $400,000 in donations to support the non-GMO farmers, while $1.3 million was donated to oppose the ballot measure.

Organic farmer Chris Hardy, who spearheaded the effort to protect the non-GMO seed in the Rogue Valley, stated this morning: “I have so much gratitude to the citizens of Jackson County who chose to stand with our family farms and businesses across Southern Oregon. Our citizens made the clear decision to stand up and protect the future of non-GMO family farms in this region.”

Hardy, the organic farmer who found the initial plot of GMO sugar beets that threatened local farmers, helped organize a huge grassroots campaign of volunteers who went door to door to educate voters on the plight. He also was part of a group of local farmers who drove eighteen tractors through downtown Medford, Oregon, during the campaign.

Now that the measure has been passed to ban genetically engineered plants in the valley, all GMO plants must be destroyed within twelve months. All the Syngenta-leased plots of GMO sugar beets (which caused the contamination threat) will have to be plowed under or sold within that timeframe.

Elise Higley, who owns a 100-acre organic farm in Jackson County and is campaign director of Our Family Farm Coalition, said today, “Family farmers stood up for our basic right to farm without having our crops contaminated by Monsanto and other chemical giants that own patents on genetically engineered crops.”

She pointed out, “The federal government and state government have twiddled their thumbs as Monsanto and other chemical giants have been allowed to sell a product that spreads onto family farms and can contaminate the seeds we depend on for the next year’s crops.”

Oregon governor John Kitzhaber signed two bills last October that now prohibit any county (or city) enforcement of measures that would regulate areas of agriculture, nursery, flower, or vegetable seeds (or products). However, because of the astute timing and organizing on the part of GMO Free Jackson County, the thousands of local signatures needed for last-minute filings were gathered in time to get the measure to ban GMOs on the county ballot before the State of Oregon’s ruling went into effect.

After the win was announced late last night, Allen Hallmark of Talent, Oregon, stated: “I couldn’t be more pleased and thrilled by the outcome of this election. It was a real victory for the grassroots organization of small farmers and their allies called Our Family Farms Coalition. People of all ages from throughout the county pulled together to win despite the big money that Monsanto and Syngenta poured into the effort to defeat the measure. Our TV stations got rich by running all the opposition’s ads, but our voters could not be bought off.”