SUMMARY: "Environmental groups say they’ll hold Gov. John Kitzhaber to promises he made during last week’s debate about who should regulate genetically modified crops."

Environmental groups say they’ll hold Gov. John Kitzhaber to promises he made during last week’s debate about who should regulate genetically modified crops.

Senate Bill 863 prohibits local governments from regulating seeds or crops, with the intent of preventing local rules on genetically modified crops.

The bill, a late addition to Kitzhaber’s “grand bargain” package of bills dealing with public retirement and tax issues, drew outrage from some environmental groups, farm groups and legislators.

During negotiations, Kitzhaber sent a letter to legislative leaders saying he’s committed to introducing legislation in 2015 that will address regulation of GMOs.

Until then, the letter said, he plans the following:

• He’ll direct the Oregon Department of Agriculture to use its existing authority to deal with conflicts between genetically modified and non-genetically modified crops.

• He’ll require the Department of Agriculture to complete an action plan by June 2014 that includes a mapping system, so growers can coordinate what is grown and where, buffers between genetically modified and non-genetically modified crops, and exclusion areas.

That move is important, because so far, some growers of genetically modified plants have refused to say exactly where they are grown.

“That would be really important to prevent the risk of GMO contamination in non-GMO crops,” said Allison Hensey, sustainable foods and farms program director for the Oregon Environmental Council.

• He’ll convene a task force to advise the Department of Agriculture and to recommend legislation to be considered in 2015. The task force will address labeling requirements, liability, compensation, budgetary requirements and other issues.

“I agree that there are real issues about genetically engineered crops and other agriculture products,” Kitzhaber said. “Labeling and consumer choice are also issues that should be carefully considered by the state.”

However, Kitzhaber said he thinks agriculture should be regulated at the state level.

The bill would exempt Jackson County if an initiative on the ballot for May 2014 passes.

Oregon Environmental Council, Oregon League of Conservation Voters, Friends of Family Farmers, Organically Grown Company, Oregon Tilth and the Sierra Club put out a joint statement after the bill’s passage.

“While we strongly opposed SB 863 and its inclusion in the unrelated legislative package, we are encouraged by the governor’s commitment to making real, substantive progress on GMO issues across Oregon,” the statement reads.

But some of the bill’s opponents said they are not hopeful.

“We expect that the same powerful interests responsible for inserting SB 863 in the so-called ‘grand bargain’ will continue to obstruct, delay, oppose and fight any and all state, federal and local policies intended to protect farmers and consumers from unwanted GE material,” said Ivan Maluski, director of Friends of Family Farmers.

SOURCE: Statesman Journal
AUTHOR: Tracy Loew
URL: http://www.statesmanjournal.com/needlogin/article/20131008/NEWS/31008001...
DATE: 09.10.2013