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Right-To-Know About GMOs

GMO-Free Oregon wants you to know the dangers of genetically modified crops pose to the food supply and to local farms. The group is launching local and state efforts to stop GMOs from contaminating organic crops and making their way further into the foods Oregonians eat.

On May 30 Oregon Right to Know will present  “What You Need to Know about GMOs in your Food and Farms” at the UO. Oregon Right to Know is a 2012 ballot initiative for labeling GMO foods.

The group will need to collect the signatures of 100,000 registered Oregon voters to get the initiative on the ballot.

The event will feature Scott Bates, director of Oregon Right to Know; Kim Goodwin, director of Oregonians for Farm and Food Rights; Clint Lindsey, a Benton County bean and grain farmer and Leda Hermecz, director of FIRST, which helps businesses go green and non-GMO, according to Sabrina Siegel of GMO-Free Oregon.

Siegel says that the ballot initiative isn’t the only plan. The group is also working on efforts in Jackson and Benton counties to pass ordinances that would block GMOs at the local level. It’s about the right to farm sustainably and about heritage seed, she says. She says she’d like to pass an anti-GMO ordinance in Lane County, where she lives, as well.

GMO-Free Oregon is getting help with the ordinances from Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF). CELDF provides support to communities and groups who want to “assert their right to local self-government and clean climate, and to sustainable, environmentally cohesive or compatible agriculture,” according to Kai Huschke of CELDF.

 “GMO foods and factory farms are positioned as better, more advanced, more modern,” Huschke says. “Those are buzzwords they will use to convince communities that it’s a good thing.” 

The regulatory system is “all about mitigating impacts not stopping it all together,” he says. 

Siegel says that GM crops and their fuel-intensive farming practices are dangerous for human health and the environment, and linked to climate change. Benton County in particular she says is an interesting mix — both home to organic farms and farmers who have long been fighting GMOs, but also the home of OSU, a land grant institution that takes in a great deal of corporate funding.

The effort to protect organics and heritage seed through legislation is a fairly new one, Huschke says. He says that given the long history of influence that big money and corporations have on a legal and legislative system that assumes “a corporation’s will is somehow greater than the community’s will” the “only outlet at the moment is to take action at the local level.”

To learn more about this local action against GMO foods, go to “What You Need to Know about GMOs in your Food and Farms” at 7pm Wednesday, May 30, 177 Lawrence Hall at the UO and check out www.gmofreeoregon.org