Benton GMO Ballot Measure Progresses

gmoThe Benton County Community Rights Coalition has encountered another setback in its attempt to get a GMO-banning ordinance on the November ballot. The county attorney approved the ordinance’s title, but opponents of the measure lodged another objection, details of which were not available at press time. The Community Rights group has filed in support of the county attorney’s decision to approve the title, and a judge will review the case on Friday, April 4.

The Measure to Establish a Local Food System Ordinance begins with broad declarations about the rights of Benton County residents to raise and consume local foods, and save open-pollinated seeds. Self-government and the protection of eco-systems are touched upon, then the ordinance gets down to the real business at hand: banning genetically modified organisms. GMOs are described as incompatible with the community’s right to a local food system, because of risks of contamination of other crops, and patents that prohibit seed saving.

The ordinance would require that GM crops be removed from Benton County within 90 days. Bio-engineering corporations would be responsible for cleaning up GM crops not purposely planted by a farmer. Doubtless this is a nod to the rogue GMO wheat discovered growing in Eastern Oregon last May.

If the judge rules in favor of the group, they will begin collecting signatures. Harry MacCormack, one of the organizers of the ordinance, says that a PAC called Benton Food Freedom has been formed to help with campaign organization. MacCormack reports that around 2,200 signatures are required to get the measure on the ballot.

Last year, the county attorney denied the group access to the ballot, saying the measure was too broad. Later, the county attorney was court ordered by Benton County Circuit Court Judge, Locke Williams, to assign the measure a title, opening the door for Community Rights to gather signatures.

By Bethany Carlson