Common sense emerges on GMOs

A proposal in the Oregon Legislature would help neighboring farmers resolve problems that might arise over growing genetically modified crops.

Published on April 24, 2015 11:17AM

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

Rik Dalvit/For the Capital Press

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It appears common sense has taken over the Oregon Legislature as it considers how best to get farmers to cooperate with one another on genetically modified crops.

Legislation is making the rounds that prescribes mediation for neighboring farmers hoping to resolve the conflicts that may arise when GMOs are grown near organic or other types of crops. Conflicts may arise over cross pollination, the timing of planting or other issues.

The proposal, House Bill 2509, would use a carrot-and-stick approach.

If a problem comes up, the state Department of Agriculture would be called upon to mediate between the farmers. The mediator would develop a plan to avoid whatever problems might exist.

That’s the carrot.

If, for some reason, one farmer or the other decides the plan offered by the mediator wouldn’t work and goes to court, he would be liable for all court costs and attorney’s fees — his and the other farmer’s — if he loses the case.

That’s the stick.

The proposal has the overriding goal of nudging farmers to cooperate with one another. In some quarters, the GMO issue has become so polarizing that the first step seems to be calling lawyers instead of calling the neighbor. As a result, some disagreements have been exacerbated instead of being resolved.

The proposal also will provide empirical examples of how many such problems exist and their nature. Until now most examples have been anecdotal.

HB 2509 is remarkable in that two diverse farm groups support it.

“We feel this is highly preferable to any kind of mandates and practices that favor one type of crop over another,” Oregon Farm Bureau President Barry Bushue told the House Committee on Rural Communities, Land Use and Water.

“It creates an incentive for people to mediate coexistence conflicts,” said Ivan Maluski, policy director for Friends of Family Farmers.

In past weeks, we have noted that farmers have been actively seeking non-judicial means of addressing the many types of regulatory problems they face. We’ve also noted that the regulators seem open to less confrontational means of reaching agreements. If the full Legislature passes HB 2509 and Gov. Kate Brown signs it — and they should — this would be another example.

Neighboring farmers who are of goodwill should be able to negotiate whatever issues exist over growing GMO crops. With help from an ODA mediator, that would be made easier.



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