Measure to ban GMOs in Jackson County qualifies for May 2014 ballot

Voters will decide in May 2014 whether to ban genetically modified crops in Jackson County.

Enough of the more than 6,700 signatures submitted by GMO-Free Jackson County were verified to qualify the measure, Jackson County Clerk Chris Walker confirmed this morning.

The number of valid signatures well surpassed the required 4,662, she said. Co-petitioner Brian Comnes of Ashland said the validity rate was 87 percent after a statistical sampling of 10 percent of the names.

"We're very encouraged by the high success rate ... but it will still be a big challenge to get 40,000 yes votes in the election, because the bio-tech crowd always shows up and spends a lot of money to defeat these things," he said.

The GMO-Free measure would ban anyone from raising genetically engineered plants in Jackson County, with exemptions for scientific research. It also calls for the county to conduct inspections and allows enforcement through citizen lawsuits.

GMO proponents say genetically modified crops are more resistant to weeds and pests, easier to grow and more productive.

Multinational Swiss corporation Syngenta raises genetically modified sugar beets less than four miles away from several local organic farms, whose owners worry that cross-pollination could threaten their certification.

Measures in Jackson County must be passed in a primary or general election, according to the county charter, unless the commissioners hold a special election.

— John Darling

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