What Measure 02-89 Does… Pros and Cons

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Ballots will be mailed April 30, and due back on May 19. Measure 2-89 mandates that all genetically modified organisms in Benton County be harvested, removed, or destroyed within 90 days if it passes; it makes use of these organisms illegal after that. The measure envisions  an enforcement regime decided by county supervisors, as well as standing for individual residents to bring legal actions.

Also envisioned is that the measure would supersede any state or federal laws it may conflict with, including patent laws—it seeks to shift strict liability and costs for removal to patent holders.

Large parts of this measure may turn out to be unenforceable. Regardless of that, one would most likely vote yes if they agree with the basic premise here—the lawyers can argue about the rest.

More concerning is the scale of this measure. Some supporters deny that it would kill broad swaths of medical and agro research at OSU, but a read of the measure makes clear that it could, whether intended or not. Beyond this, the measure does not consider the full landscape of genetically engineered organisms in medical treatment and research, or for that matter that their use in crops could become positive at some future point—a solid case could be made for voting against this measure.

That said, species adaptation ameliorates present claims favoring genetically engineered crops and seed drift can and does contaminate neighboring farms, rendering those crops—as in the case of Eastern Oregon wheat in 2013—unmarketable. There are potential environmental and human health concerns, as research has been broadly inadequate.

On balance, a reasonable case can be made for a yes vote on Measure 2-89. Federal and state governments have had two decades to respond on this issue, but have only met it with increasing paralysis and apathy.

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