Opinion: GMO Ban a Measure Too Far?

strawberry fieldsOne might think a series of public debates would challenge opposing factions beyond their talking points, but not so much with this proposed set of laws, one moderator even admitting to not having read this relatively short measure before the debate, which highlights a problem with the consideration of 2-89. This is a complex issue, the measure as written raises serious questions and, both sides seem to be hoping we’ll all just vote our preconceived notions.

For instance, this measure’s Section 3(b) reads, “It shall be unlawful for any corporation or governmental entity to engage in the use of genetically engineered organisms within Benton County.”

2-89 proponents have rationalized that a local judge’s blessing for the measure’s ballot inclusion equals its only about food and not research, opponents posit the question will be answered in higher courts only looking at black letters of the measure, not intent.

So, what’s a voter to do? Well, if you are for the proposed ban, but not at the cost of research at OSU, you will probably vote against this measure and hope proponents rewrite it for a future electoral try. In other words, why risk it when a later try could include explicit exemptions? And, don’t minimize the risk, from a purely grammatical standpoint, the concerns for OSU research should be seen as substantive.

There may be a sense that all GMO research has to do with the very uses measure proponents would like to stop, but that is not the case.  Genetic engineering has moved to medical research, for instance OSU is making breakthroughs that may render ALS survivable.  Even outside of research, one can envision local patients wanting treatments that involve genetically engineered organisms at local facilities.

Interestingly, proponents of 2-89 are on record saying they would prefer not to make this debate about human health ramifications, even though there is some evidence that not all genetic modifications to crops are benign in this respect.  Fortunately, most analysts agree that a statewide labeling measure will return in 2016 and that the anticipated increased turnout of a presidential election year bodes well for passage.

 Proponents for Measure 2-89 point to burdens foisted on GMO free farmers as genetically engineered seed from neighboring farms contaminate their crops, a relational issue between neighbors for which a society ruled by law can be asked to weigh in on.  The difficulty with this measure is the risk that it does quite a bit more than even its writers likely intended.

by Joel Hudson

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