The current fight against GMOs (genetically modified organisms) in Lane County is one small battle in a larger war, according to Thomas Linzey, the executive director of the legal nonprofit group the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund.
Jackson County in southeast Oregon banned GMOs in last week’s election, despite $1 million in outside money to defeat the bill and another anti-GMO measure passed in Josephine County as well. However the Josephine ban is in limbo because during a special legislative session dealing with the public retirement system last year Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a bill into law that limits the ability of local governments and to ban specific farming practices, such as planting GMOs. Jackson County’s ban was exempt because the measure had already qualified for the ballot.
Here in the Willamette Valley, residents in Benton County are already circulating signatures to get a measure on the ballot. The fight to get a GMO ban on the ballot in Lane County is still being held in limbo due to legalities on ballot language. Linzey says he is confident that Support Local Food Rights will be able to get the fight against GMOs to the ballot for either this year or the next election.
Benton and Lane counties are among the 160 municipalities that CELDF has aided with free legal advice. CELDF has been helping put forward “new systems of laws to prevent GMOs and unsustainable food practices.” However, the overarching goal for Linzey and others at CELDF is much larger.
“It’s a bigger fight than that,” Linzey says. “And that fight is whose rights are going to trump whose. It’s all been us on the defense and not on the offense, and that’s where we lose.”
Linzey will talk about the many ways that “the last 40 years of environmental activism has been crap,” including how the counties have been rendered incapable of governing themselves. The chance to reclaim that governance, says Linzey, starts with asserting the right to say no to GMOs at the county level.
Linzey will be speaking on “We the People Rising Up: Rejecting Corporate Control One Community at a Time” at 7:30 pm June 4 at The Shedd. Free, but $10 suggested donation. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.