Oregon’s governor signs ban on GMO canola growth in Willamette Valley

Canola-north-plains OregonGovernor John Kitzhaber (D-OR) signed into law a bill that banned the growth of genetically modified canola (rapeseed) for commercial production on Thursday, August 15th.  The new law prohibits growing the GMO crop within the three million acre Willamette Valley Protected District, one of the world’s pre-eminent vegetable seed producing regions, until 2019.

The Center for Food Safety (CFS) – a non-profit organization that works to protect human health and the environment, focusing mainly on harmful food production technologies – had sued the Oregon Department of Agriculture (DOA) after seed and organic vegetable farmers objected to a controversial decision to permit canola production in the Willamette Valley. CFS argued that:

  • canola easily cross-pollinates with brassica specialty seed crops like broccoli, kale, and cabbage
  • spreads plant diseases and pests to brassica vegetable and seed crops
  • and that it can contaminate pure lots of vegetable and clover seed, rendering them unsalable in international and local markets.

Most consumers aren’t aware that the large majority of canola is genetically engineered, which then contaminates organic and conventional varieties, as well as cross-pollinates with weeds, creating new invasive species problems, as herbicide resistant traits spread to native weed populations.

GMO (no)The new law overturns an unlawful rule adopted by the Oregon Department of Agriculture in February 2013 that would have allowed thousands of acres of industrial canola to be planted over the next decade in a region where production of the plant for its seed has long been banned. In August 2012, the Oregon Department of Agriculture attempted to open the valley to widespread canola planting despite overwhelming public opposition.  Center for Food Safety and Friends of Family Farmers, on behalf of individual growers, challenged ODA’s original temporary rule, which would have allowed canola planting in the fall of 2012. The Oregon Court of appeals halted that rule-making as unlawful. Because of this successful challenge, no planting of canola has been allowed in the Willamette Valley.

Encouraging news for Oregon farmers and consumers. Now if more politicians would have the courage and smarts to follow the governor’s example.

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