Organizers want to ‘take rights away from corporations’
By LACEY JARRELL
EUGENE, Ore. — An organization seeking to ban genetically modified crops is challenging Lane County officials’ rejection of its initiative.
Support Local Food Rights filed the challenge on July 25 in Lane County Circuit Court in response to the county clerk’s rejection of its initiative.
The initiative was rejected for failing to meet the requirement that an initiative can address only one issue or subject.
As an initial step in the circuit court review, Ann Kneeland, attorney and spokesperson for SLFR, is preparing a brief, due Aug. 9, that will explain how the initiative does comply with the single subject rule.
The county clerk will also file a brief before oral arguments are heard before Judge Karsten H. Rasmussen.
“Our position is that the ordinance in its entirety addresses the single subject,” Kneeland said.
According to Kneeland, the ordinance’s single subject is to “create and protect a local food system” in Lane County. Kneeland said each of the ordinance’s provisions works toward meeting that goal, including stripping corporations that violate the ordinance of “legal rights, privileges, powers and protections” and forbidding corporate claims to “future lost profits” to be considered as property interests.
“Unless we take rights away from corporations that violate the ordinance, we couldn’t be successful in protecting what we care about, including our local food system,” Kneeland said.
In a letter sent to Kneeland and chief petitioner Lynn Bowers, County Clerk Cheryl Betschart identified four subjects that violated the single-subject rule: the creation of rights of natural communities; the creation of rights to self-government and sovereign citizenship; the elimination or curtailment of corporate rights; and limited immunity to federal patent law.
While SLFR is waiting for court proceedings to move forward, the group plans to increase community engagement by hosting events and speakers, fundraising and rallying supporters around the issue, Bowers said.
“We’re to the point where we are ready to fill executive positions in terms of running a campaign,” she said.
Scott Dahlman, executive director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, said farmers, foresters and other members of OFS would be negatively impacted if the initiative passes. He pointed out that pesticides, fertilizers, and biotechnology are used by industries ranging from nurseries to golf courses.
“Many farmers use this technology right now and see this initiative as a threat,” Dahlman said.