The phone rings frequently in Mendocino County Agricultural Commissioner Chuck Morse’s office in Ukiah — folks from Oregon investigating a proposed GMO crop ban in Jackson County want to know about enforcement costs.
“Maybe I get one complaint a year,” Morse says. “It’s generally understood that GMOs are not permitted here. Everybody knows it.”
Morse wasn’t in office when Mendocino’s GMO ban took effect. Since he’s been there, only one case of alleged GMO pollution went as far as ordering the genetic field test material following inspection of the site.
California has a 120-year-old system that includes agriculture commissioners in all 58 of its counties. When several local GMO bans surfaced 10 years ago, enforcement went to the local ag commissioner’s office along with horticultural inspection, pesticide regulation and nearly a dozen ag-related functions dictated by state law.
Oregon has no similar system. Measure 15-119, the proposed Jackson County ban, says complaints can either be filed in Circuit Court or be made with the county’s code enforcement officer.
In a controversial report delivered March 12, Danny Jordan, the county administrator, estimated direct costs of $110,000 a year to put an ag-savvy code enforcement officer in the field. Jordan says if alleged violations went to formal hearings, the first-year cost could double.
“We do not have staff ... that have knowledge to test plants,” said Jordan.