Lane County Fight Continues Over GMOs

The fight against genetically modified crops in Lane County is in the hands of Circuit Court Judge Charles Carlson, who is expected to rule on whether the Local Food System Ordinance complied with state constitutional requirements.

On Feb. 18, Carlson heard arguments from Eugene-based Support Local Food Rights (SLFR) attorney Ann Kneeland and from John DiLorenzo, the lobbyist for Oregonians for Food and Shelter, a pro-pesticide organization. Carlson requested that both attorneys submit a draft of factual and legal findings. The deadline for that submission was Feb. 28 and a ruling is expected soon.

“I think we feel pretty confident and optimistic,” Kneeland says. Kneeland preferred this route for the case as opposed to having the judge rule on Feb. 18. She says that if the judge were to rule against SLFR, the group will get feedback, which would help SLFR in writing a more successful initiative.

Lane County is one of several in the state of Oregon attempting to ban GMO crops. On Jan. 31, the Benton County Local Food System Ordinance was granted a victory when County Circuit Judge Locke Williams ruled that its measure complied with the first set of requirements. In Jackson County the issue of GMOs is already on the ballot and both sides have been fundraising for the upcoming election.

Kneeland says that the Feb. 18 meeting had good outcomes as it was discovered that SB 863, which passed the Legislature in 2013, will not have as great a negative impact on SLFR as previously thought. The bill was intended to prevent local governments from regulating issues regarding seeds. DiLorenzo admitted during the meeting that people have the right to vote in local elections, Kneeland says.

“It’s been our expectation from the beginning that the corporate powers behind GMOs would fight this tooth and nail, and that’s what they’ve been doing, but it was good to hear [their attorney] acknowledge that the preemptive law does not allow them to challenge the initiative pre-election and that the people of Lane County are entitled to vote on this issue,” Kneeland says.

By the time EW goes to press, there is a chance that Judge Carlson will have ruled on the matter. Regardless of the outcome, SLFR is ready to continue to fight.