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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Activists Want To Lift State Ban On Local GE Crop Regulations

Anna King
Northwest News Network
File photo. A ban on local regulation of genetically engineered crops was narrowly approved by Oregon lawmakers in 2013

Opponents of genetically engineered crops in Oregon want state lawmakers to allow local governments to ban those crops. The measure under consideration would reverse a bill approved during a special session less than three years ago.

Some farmers, especially those who grow organic or specialty crops, told lawmakers that their livelihoods are at risk because genetically engineered material can make its way into their fields. Ivan Maluski is with a group called Friends of Family Farmers. He said the bill wouldn't immediately change anything.

"All we're simply asking is that local communities should have the option to be able to enact local protections,” Maluski said.

The state's larger agriculture groups oppose that. They say the bill would lead to a confusing patchwork of regulations.

One county in Oregon already prohibits genetically engineered crops. Jackson County's ban was permitted because it qualified for the ballot there before the 2013 special session.

The ban on local regulation of genetically engineered crops was narrowly approved by lawmakers in October 2013. It was part of an agreement dubbed the "Grand Bargain." The centerpiece was a measure to rein in public pension costs. That bill was later largely thrown out by the Oregon Supreme Court.

The current measure is before the Oregon House Consumer Protection and Government Effectiveness.