Voters in Jackson County, Oregon last week passed a ballot initiative mandating what crops farmers can or cannot grow on their land. The initiative, which passed by nearly a two-to-one margin, bans county farmers from growing any genetically engineered plants.

Quoted in an article from American Seed Trade Association, Oregon Farm Bureau president Barry Bushue, says, "Regrettably ideology defeated sound science and common sense in Jackson County."

Oregon’s state legislature passed a pre-emption law last session, intended to prevent counties from enacting individual bans, but Jackson County was exempted in the bill because the ballot initiative was already underway when the law went into effect. Another Oregon county passed a similar initiative that the state likely will challenge under the pre-emption law, and three other counties are planning similar voter initiatives.

The issue remains contentious in Oregon and elsewhere, and even among the “organic,” non-GMO community, some see the legislation as a bad idea. In a commentary posted in Agri Marketing, Mischa Popoff, a former organic farmer and USDA-contract organic inspector, stresses that organic growers should be able to market their products on their own merit, rather than using legislation to stifle the competition. Let consumers decide.

“For years we argued that the farming community should respect our right to be organic,” he says. “(But with this vote) we've gone yet one more step down the road to denying our neighbors their rights.”