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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.

Group Wants Lawmakers To Allow Local Bans On Genetically Engineered Crops

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Anna King
/
Northwest News Network
A measure in the Oregon Legislature would allow genetically engineered crops to be regulated by local officials or by county initiatives.

Some Oregon farming groups want state lawmakers to allow counties to regulate or even ban genetically engineered crops. The legislature took away that right in 2013 during a special session. At the time, opponents of genetically engineered crops were told that a statewide policy would be forthcoming.

Elise Higley, director of the group Our Family Farms, said she's tired of waiting for the state to act.

"We are saying we want action now,” Higley said. “And if you can't get it together in four years, we want that responsibility and that back. We want to deal with it on our own."

The measure would allow genetically engineered crops to be regulated by local officials or by county initiatives.

Voters in Jackson County approved a ban on such crops in 2014 that was permitted to take effect because it had qualified for the ballot before lawmakers took the decision out of the hands of local communities.

Voters in Josephine County also banned genetically engineered crops in 2014. But the ban was never enforced since it didn't qualify for the ballot until after lawmakers passed the statewide preemption law. That law was part of a carefully negotiated package of bills in a special session.

The package also included cost-cutting changes to the state's public pension system. Many of the pension changes were later thrown out by the Oregon Supreme Court.