GMOs may seem to be an unavoidable fact of the future but some organic farmers have turned back the tide, at least temporarily. In June 2015, a federal judge upheld an Oregon county’s ban on GMO seeds.
You will recall that GMO is a genetically modified organisms made by splicing the DNA of one organism with the DNA of another organism. GMOs are used for food, fuel, humans, animals, insects and aquatic life. Though introduced in the late 1990s, the debate still rages about whether the benefits of GMOs outweigh their detriments. As recently as early December 2014, scientists squared off in such a debate at Intelligence Squared U. S. in New York City.
Determined to keep GMO seeds out of their county, organic farmers in Jackson County, Oregon supported a county-wide ban on the use of GMO seeds in their county. The farmers moved quickly, before the few corporations creating and controlling GMOs could lobby Oregon’s state legislature to enact a law prohibiting counties from adopting anti-GMO seed laws.
Some non-organic farmers backed by Monsanto, one of the largest producers of GMO seeds, sued Jackson County:
– attempting to overturn the anti-GMO county ordinance, asserting that the ordinance violated their right to farm; and
– asserting that the GMO ban is an unconstitutional “taking.”
The federal judge addressed the attempting to overturn the ordinance, stating that according to earlier state statute, commercial farmers can enact ordinances to prevent harm from other businesses. “Harm” could include GMO crop pollen carried by the wind and tainting nearby organic crops, for example. Here, organic farmers have enacted an ordinance that “serves to prevent such damage before it happens.” Consequently, the ordinance stands.
Meanwhile, the second aspect of the suit, the assertion that the GMO ban is an unconstitutional “taking,” will continue. In addition, Monsanto is fully expected to appeal the court’s decision to uphold the anti-GMO ordinance. The appeal is almost a certainty, as the Oregon organic farmers have hit upon a successful maneuver for blocking GMO use that could be quickly copied by organic farmers across the nation.
Note from HandelontheLaw.com: This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information can not be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither the author, handelonthelaw.com, or any of its affiliates shall have any liability stemming from this article.