The Oregon Legislature, meeting in special session, has passed a bill that will pre-empt local governments from banning biotech crops. Happily, commonsense has prevailed.
The pre-emption bill will prevent an onerous county-by-county patchwork of biotech rules and allow the state to adopt uniform biotech regulations that create a level playing field for farmers.
The bill was part of the legislative package that also included corporate tax increases and known as the “grand bargain,” which the House and Senate leaderships worked out with Gov. John Kitzhaber in advance of the session.
Before the session Kitzhaber told legislators he would veto the package if all the measures were not passed. Opponents said that prevented the bill from being separated from the package and put before a regular session of the Legislature.
Kitzhaber agreed with critics who said the pre-emption bill fell outside the scope of the special session. But, he said, the measure was necessary to stop Oregon’s counties from creating a logistical and regulatory disaster for the state’s farmers.
“This is about whether we should have 36 different GE policies or one state policy,” he said.
County officials provided compelling testimony in support of the bill.
Representatives of the Association of Oregon Counties argued that counties don’t have the expertise or the staff or the money to regulate agriculture in general, or GMO crops in particular.
Victory, however, was not complete. Jackson County residents will be allowed to vote on a biotech crop ban already certified for the May 2014 ballot. We hope commonsense may prevail there as well.
Such regulation that is required should come from the state. Voters with little first-hand agriculture experience can be easily swayed by emotional arguments short on facts and long on fear mongering.