Our View

Voters in Jackson County, Ore., will this May decide whether they are pro-choice. They will decide whether a farmer has the right to choose which crop to grow without someone from the county government showing up and forcing him to tear out his crop. Though he may have successfully grown the crop for years, that won’t matter. For him, his right to choose will have evaporated, courtesy of a vote of the people.

On the ballot is Measure 15-119, which would ban growing genetically modified crops in the county. Proponents say they just can’t get along with other farmers who grow GMO crops and therefore the other guys should be banned. It is a case of trying to elevate a personal problem to public policy.

No matter how you look at it, having voters dictate what shall and shall not be grown in the county is illogical. Farming requires a high level of knowledge about crops, soil and climate to choose a crop that will be successful and profitable. To hand that decision over to a random voter in Ashland or anywhere else makes no sense whatsoever. It turns the science of agriculture into a political football.

GMOs have been shown to be safe, successful and profitable. Though the drumbeat continues that they are somehow unsafe, that position is not backed up by anything other than assertions from those who hope to profit by sowing suspicion and conspiracy theories.

If county voters can ban a legal crop such as genetically modified alfalfa, what can’t they ban? The illiterate may demand that no works by Shakespeare be performed in Ashland. Where is this to stop?

The initiative before voters doesn’t regulate GMOs, it bans them and requires all farmers everywhere to submit to the power of county officials.

There are many ways to solve whatever real or perceived problems exist in Jackson County. The easiest doesn’t require a vote of the people. It requires that neighboring farmers sit down and consider how best to prevent cross-pollination between their crops. A cup of coffee, a plat map and a little common sense are all that’s required.

It doesn’t take a county official to figure that out. Right now, in 50 states, farmers have already figured this out. The good farmers in Jackson County can certainly do the same.

Other ways of getting along are also under consideration, including insurance that would indemnify organic or other farmers whose crops have been accidentally cross-pollinated.

And don’t let the activists fool you. Ask them for proof of the “evils” of GMOs and ask the tough questions. The “proof” boils down to interesting but unproven theories.

And be not mistaken. We’re not pro- or anti-GMO, just as we’re not pro- or anti-pro-organic. We’re pro-farmer. We believe there’s enough good earth for all farmers to grow all types of crops.

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