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GMO fight in Southern Oregons shifts to courts, fields

Voter approval of a ban on GMO farming in Jackson County on May 20 was a historic victory, according to the Our Family Farms Coalition.

"We are just forever grateful for the community stepping up and showing what they believe is really important for Jackson County," said Elise Higley of the coalition.

But not everyone was cheering. Ian Tolleson of the Oregon Farm Bureau was against the ban. "Regrettably ideology has won over sound science and common sense," Tolleson said.

With the passage of Measure 15-119, there will be no more GMO farming in Jackson County. Opponents say while the vote is over, the debate is not. "We respect the will of the voters that they rejected our position but we still believe that this is terrible public policy," Tolleson said.

So what is the Jackson County policy at this point? County officials said there are a lot of unknowns. "As far as working out the particulars we haven't determined that yet," said County Commissioner Don Skundrick.

What is known is that GMO farmers will have one year from when the vote is certified to rid their farms of GMO crops, but the enforcement process is still a work in progress. Skundrick said. Those against the GMO ban said this isn't just about big business. "This isn't Monsanto or Syngenta. These are local farms that have been farming the way they have chosen here in the valley for generations," said Tolleson.

But Jackson County voters have spoken and GMO farmers are now being forced to make new plans to adapt to a new law that has never before been seen in Oregon.

The GMO ban also passed in Josephine County with a 58% yes vote. Supporters there will have to challenge a 2013 state law pre-empting other counties from following in Jackson County's foosteps, before it can take affect there.

Jackson County's effort was underway before that law was passed and is exempt.