A ban on growing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Jackson County, Oregon, took effect on June 5, 2015, after a federal court refused to block the voter-approved statute at the request of alfalfa farmers who have grown GMO crops. Schultz Family Farms LLC v. Jackson Cnty., No. 14-1975 (D. Ore., Medford Div., order entered May 29, 2015). The court noted that the issue of GMO farming encompasses several broad questions about the American food supply that it would not attempt to answer; its decision “is simply about the statutory construction of the Right to Farm Act, Jackson County Ordinance 635, and Oregon Senate Bill 863.”
The court first describes Oregon’s Right to Farm Act, finding that “in the conflicts that arise between active, functioning farms and new, neighboring suburbanites, who inevitably find the farming practices loud, smelly, invasive, or simply irritating, the Oregon legislature has decided, as have many states, to tip the scales in favor of the farms.” The GMO ordinance is valid on its face under the law because it “intends to protect against damage to commercial agriculture products,” and thus falls into one of the Act’s exceptions that allows such statutes.
The ordinance is further validated by the uncodified portion of Oregon’s Seed Bill, the court said. That legislation expressly forbade local governments from enforcing measures that inhibit or prevent agricultural production but created a specific exception for local measures “[a]pproved by the electors of the county at an election held on May 20, 2014,” the date on which voters approved the Jackson County GMO ban. Accordingly, the court refused to grant the plaintiffs’ attempt to block the ban and dismissed the case.