A non-profit family farming organization, the Center for Food Safety and several seed companies have sued the Oregon Department of Agriculture seeking court review and a stay of a temporary rule that would open 1.7 million acres to genetically modified (GM) canola plants. Friends of Family Farmers v. Or. Dep’t of Agric., No. n/a (Or. Ct. App., filed August 15, 2012). The plaintiffs claim that opening formerly protected acreage to GM crops in the Willamette Valley without imposing appropriate buffers would harm them through cross-pollination, seed crop contamination, increased pests and disease, and escaped canola weeds.
They claim that the rule was adopted under the agency’s temporary rulemaking authority which does not include opportunity for public notice, review and comment. “The critical prerequisite for adopting a temporary rule is the requirement to demonstrate that an agency’s failure to act promptly will result in ‘serious prejudice’ to the public interest or the parties concerned.” According to the plaintiffs, “the rule is invalid because it was adopted without compliance with applicable rulemaking procedures and exceeds the statutory authority” of the agency. In its statement of findings, the department apparently states, “Failure to adopt temporary rules governing the planting of these crops could result in serious prejudice to the agricultural industry in the protected districts.” The plaintiffs contend that the agency was required to find that failure to act promptly will result in serious prejudice.
Center for Food Safety attorney George Kimbrell reportedly said, “[The agency’s] rushed, backroom deal cutting is the textbook way agencies act when they know they’re doing wrong. This irresponsible and unlawful approval of unprecedented canola planting gambles with the stability of Oregon’s agricultural crown jewel, and all for some GE [genetically engineered] canola biofuel speculation.” See Law360, August 15, 2012.