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Jackson County Genetically Modified Organism Ban, Measure 15-119 (May 2014)

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A Jackson County Genetically Modified Organism Ban, Measure 15-119 ballot question will be on the May 20, 2014 election ballot for voters in Jackson County, Oregon.

A group of local petitioners in Oregon called GMO-Free Jackson County, hopeful of banning genetic modification and engineering in Jackson County, filed petitions for this measure with over 6,700 signatures on January 2, 2013.[1] The initiative would also call on the county to provide inspections and allow enforcement through citizen lawsuits.[2][3]

Although state legislators, who approved Senate Bill 863 in 2013, prohibiting counties except Jackson County from regulating or banning GMOs, intended this measure to be the last of its kind, activists in Josephine County have moved forward with a similar initiative, Measure 17-58, despite the new state law.[4]

GMO-Free Jackson County is working with GMO-Free Josephine County, which is coordinating a similar measure, Measure 17-58, to bring about a GMO-free Rogue Valley.[5]

According to County Administrator Danny Jordan, enforcement of Measure 15-119 would cost the county a minimum of $219,000 per year.[6]

Text of measure

Ballot question

The question on the ballot:

Should Ordinance Ban Growing of “Genetically-Engineered” Plants (defined) in Jackson County and Allow County/Private Persons to Compel Enforcement?[7][8]

Summary statement

This summary of Measure 15-119 was provided by the Jackson County Elections department:

This ordinance would ban any person from propagating, cultivating, raising or growing “genetically-engineered” (defined) plants in Jackson County.

The Ordinance also:

  • Requires affected persons to harvest, destroy or remove all genetically engineered plants within 12 months of the enactment of the ordinance;
  • Provides exemptions for certain health, educational, scientific and medical research institutions if activities are conducted under secure, indoor laboratory conditions;
  • Allows for inspections of private property by County code enforcement officers after obtaining a search warrant;
  • Allows for enforcement of the ordinance by the County and by private persons or groups through the State court system;
  • Provides for contested hearings and appeals for alleged violations;
  • Allows the County to recover the cost of abatement from the property owner or the person causing the violation;
  • Defines the terms “genetically engineered,” “organic agriculture,” and “organic;”[7][8]

Full text

The full text of the legislation proposed by this measure is available here.

Graphic by Anthony Freda



See also: Jackson County Genetically Modified Organism Ban, Measure 15-119 (May 2014), Supporters

The chief PACs in favor of Measure 15-119 are Our Family Farms Coalition and GMO Free Jackson County. The campaign in support of the measure is also called Our Family Farms Coalition. According to the support website the following is a partial list of supporters of a GMO ban:[9]


  • AB Seeds, Talent
  • Abbie Lane Farms, Gold Hill
  • Adam’s Farm, Ashland
  • Afternoon Zephyr Farm, Medford
  • Alpha Beta Hops Farm, Ashland
  • Anam Cara Gardens, Ashland
  • Andrew Mount Farm, Talent
  • Antonio's Farm, White City
  • Ayala Orchards, Ashland
  • Barking Moon Farm, Applegate
  • Barndog Acres, Williams
  • Bel Avenir Farm, Ashland
  • Bigham Farms, Medford
  • Blackberry Lane Farms, Grants Pass
  • Blue Fox Farm, Applegate
  • Buckbrush Acres, White City
  • By George Farm, Jacksonville
  • Caldwell Acres, Gold Hill
  • Callahan Seeds, Central Point
  • Cherry Gulch Farm, Williams
  • Chickadee Farm, Medford
  • Childers Show Goats, Medford
  • Confluence Organics, Williams
  • Cordeiro Farm, Cave Junction
  • Crabtree Farm, Ashland
  • Creekside Botanicals, Gold Hill
  • Critical Roots Farm, Gold Hill
  • Dancing Bear Farm, Williams
  • David's Specialty Nursery, Gold Hill
  • Deason Peonies, Medford
  • DeLuca Family Fig Farm, Talent
  • Diggin Livin Farm & Apiary, Cave Junction
  • Dunbar Farms, Medford
  • Eagle Mill Farm, Ashland
  • Earth and Sky Family Farm, Phoenix
Click here for a full list of supporters, including all farms in favor of Measure 15-119.


Our Family Farms Coalition campaign logo
  • Applegate Valley Community Grange #839
  • Bellview Grange #759, Ashland
  • Evans Creek Enterprise Grange #489, Rogue River
  • Phoenix Grange #779, Phoenix
  • Williams Grange #399, Williams
  • Local Farmers' Markets and Farm Organizations
  • Rogue Valley Growers and Crafters Market (170+member vendors), Medford
  • Talent Evening Market, Talent
  • Rogue Farm Corp, Ashland
  • Rogue Valley Farm to School, Ashland
  • Southern Oregon Beekeepers Association, Grants Pass
  • Southern Oregon Permaculture Institute, Ashland
Click here for a full list of supporters, including all granges in favor of Measure 15-119.


  • Ashland Food Coop (8000+ members), Ashland
  • Medford Food Coop, Medford
  • A-Raw'ns Truffles, Talent
  • Abella Catering, Medford
  • Amuse Restaurant, Ashland
  • Andy's Alchemy, Talent
  • Anya’s Thai Bistro, Ashland
  • Artisan Bakery Café, Medford
  • Ashland Food Angels, Ashland
  • Ashland Gourmet Catering, Ashland
  • Ashland Wine Cellar, Ashland
  • Bach Thor Wild Foods, Ashland
  • Bad Ass Coffee, Medford
  • Bella Union Restaurant and Saloon, Jacksonville
  • Bloomsbury Coffee House, Ashland
  • Blue Toba Indonesian Food, Ashland
  • Boulton & Son Butchers LLC, Ashland
  • Bricktowne Brewing Company, Medford
  • Burger Spot, Medford
  • Buttercloud Bakery and Café, Medford
  • C Street Bistro, Jacksonville
  • Calluna's Kitchen, Jacksonville
  • Capers, Medford
  • Case Coffee Roasters, Ashland
  • Conner Fields Brewing, Grants Pass
  • Cooking for Wellnesss, Wilberville
  • Crema, Talent
  • Cultured Goddess, Gold Hill
  • Daddy's Donuts & Juices, Grants Pass
  • Depoe St Burger and Malt Shop, Rogue River
  • Deux Chats, Ashland
  • EcoTeas, Ashland
  • Evo's Coffee Lounge, Ashland
  • Fire Cirkl, White City
  • Flower of Life Essential Blends, Mt. Shasta
  • Four and Twenty Blackbirds Bakery, Ashland
  • Fulcrum Dining, Applegate
  • Grains Beans and Things, Medford
  • Great Harvest Bread Co, Medford
  • Greenleaf Restaurant, Ashland
  • Health Food Mart, Medford
  • Healthway Nutrition Center, Medford
  • Ichigo Cakes, Ashland
Click here for a full list of supporters, including all restaurants in favor of Measure 15-119.


  • THRIVE - The Rogue Initiative for a Vital Economy
  • Families for Food Freedom, Ashland
  • Center for Food Safety (CFS), Portland
  • Jacksonville Woodlands Association, Jacksonville
  • Rivergate Christian Church, Ashland
  • Project Rogue Valley, Medford
  • Rogue Valley Weston A. Price Foundation Chapter, (750+ members), Medford
  • Chamber of Commons, Ashland
  • Earth Teach Forest Park/Way Foundation, Ashland
  • Ecology Center of the Siskiyous (ECOS), Ashland
  • Ecos Garden at SOU, Ashland
  • JCLAC - Jackson County Local Action Coalition, Medford
  • K.S. Wild, Ashland
  • Mothers Against GMOs, Ashland
  • Peace House, Ashland
  • Simply Seeds of Grace, Medford
  • Southern Oregon Slow Money, Medford
  • Southern Oregon Time Bank, Ashland
  • Sugar Loaf Association, Williams
  • The Siskiyou Collective, Williams
  • Ashland Bee Haven International, Ashland
  • Ubuntuworks Peace Education Project, Ashland
  • Unity in Ashland, Ashland
  • Wake Up America Southern Oregon, Grants Pass
  • Women's International League for Peace and Freedom- Ashland Branch
  • Woodland Charter School, Murphy
Click here for a full list of supporters, including all organizations in favor of Measure 15-119.


  • A Body Mod, Medford
  • A Rae Pilates Studio, Talent
  • A Street Print & Parcel, Ashland
  • About Change Salon, Medford
  • Advanced Photo and Imaging, Ashland
  • Alternair, Inc., Ashland
  • American Ruralcraft, Ashland
  • Anna's CPR Class, Central Point
  • Applegate Rock Shop, Murphy
  • Aqua Serene, Inc., Ashland
  • Ascari Bicycles, Inc., Ashland
  • Ashland Construction, Ashland
  • Ashland Custom Builders LLC, Ashland
  • Ashland Electric, Ashland
  • Ashland Electric Bikes, Ashland
  • Ashland High School Grizz Garden, Ashland
  • Ashland Hills Hotel & Suites, Ashland
  • Ashland Piano Service, Ashland
  • Ashland Springs Hotel, Ashland
  • Autumn Woods, Gazelle
  • Ayala Properties, Ashland
  • Bayless Riverview Realty, Gold Hill
  • Bellwood Violin, Ashland
  • Bill Francis Fine Ceramics, Ashland
  • Bill Hernon Construction, LLC, Williams
  • Bowerbird & Company, Medford
  • Cascade Heating & Air, Medford
  • Center for Women in the Global Community, Ashland
  • Clearlight Optical Co., Ashland
  • Coleman Creek Construction, Ashland
  • Computer Consulting Group, Inc., Ashland
  • Computer Services Northwest, Medford
  • Critical Eggplant Fiber&Ink Arts, Ashland
  • Dark Regions Press, Ashland
  • David Lorenz Winston Photography, Talent
  • Deborah Thornton Photograpghy, Ashland
  • Dynomyte Publications, Ashland
  • Econest Company, Ashland
Click here for a full list of supporters, including all businesses in favor of Measure 15-119.

Community Members

  • Susan Adams
  • Lynda Ainsworth, Ashland, OR
  • Elizabeth Austin
  • Regina Ayars, Ashland, OR
  • Laurie Baden, Ashland, OR
  • Agnes Baker-Pilgrim (Grandma Aggie), Grants Pass, OR
  • Bruce Bauer, Gold Hill, OR
  • Maribeth Beaudoin, Ashland, OR
  • Joan Becich
  • Pat Beck, Jacksonville, OR
  • Jami Bishop
  • Claire Blennerhassett
  • C Born
  • Peter Buckley (State Representative), Ashland, OR
  • Marie Buckner, Portland, OR
  • Cindy Bujosa, Medford, OR
  • Brooke Burdett, Medford, OR
  • Vickie Burns
  • BJ Buxton, Medford, OR
  • Sheila Chambers
  • Jeanne Chouard, Ashland, OR
  • Terre Christensen
  • Shannon Christopher
  • Kim Cochin, Portland, OR
  • Stacy Cole, San Diego, CA
  • Leslie Cox
  • Pamela Creasy, Talent, OR
  • Tamara Dawson, Portland, OR
Click here for a full list of supporters, including individuals in favor of Measure 15-119.

Arguments in favor

Many supporters of this measure are local organic farmers who argue that their crops are getting contaminated by the pollen of GMO farms nearby. The Chief petitioner for this measure, Brian Comnes, said that the main purpose of the GMO ban is to protect organic farmers facing the danger of losing money if their own product is contaminated, preventing them from selling produce or seeds as "Organic" and "GMO free." According to reports, some farmers have had to throw away seeds worth thousands of dollars because of contamination. Speaking of the impact of nearby farms using genetically modified organisms, Glenda Ponder said, "It ties our hands for saving our chard seed and planting or selling it as organic. Selling organic seed is a good way to make money, but we can't do it."[3]

Supporters of the ban also point to the fact that many countries have outlawed the importation of GMO crops, potentially threatening the agricultural export industry in Oregon. Jared Walters, the operations manager for a large, non-organic farm, recounted that in 2013 when Japan and South Korea had banned imported American wheat because of wheat that was genetically engineered to resist herbicides. Walters said that he had lost a $250,000 because of the wheat ban and expressed concern that his farm could face similar losses in the future. Walters is a supporter of Measure 15-119. Steve Fry, of Fry Family Farm and also a supporter of the measure, estimated that he loses thousands of dollars annually because of GMO contamination from neighboring crops. Fry said, "It's an economic hardship for seed growers."[12]

Campaign finance

In response to the large contributions made to the campaign against Measure 15-119, Chris Hardy, a Talent organic farmer and a chief petitioner for the initiative, said, "Indeed, they do want to squash us like a bug. This is about whether we are going to turn the keys to agriculture in the Rogue Valley over to a multinational corporation (Syngenta) or we are going to say no and stand up to protect our family farms' future."[13][14]

The two action committees registered in support of Measure 15-119 are GMO Free Jackson County and Our Family Farms Coalition. As of March 21, 2014, the total contributions made to these two PACs in both 2013 and 2014 amounted to $110,559, with expenditures totaling $45,207, much of which was spent to put Measure 15-119 on the ballot. The following table shows notable contributions of $500 or more to these PACs:[15][16]

Donor Amount
Center for Food Safety Fund $5,000
Luke Frazer $500
Karen Swift $4,500
Karen Wennlund $550
Wendy Seldon $25,000
John Swift $9,500
GMO-Free Jackson County Group $11,000
CPM Real Estate $900
Jim Levie $1,000
Tamsin Taylor $2,000
Liza Maltsberger (This contribution was returned) $1,000
Jasmine Karcey $500
Organic Consumers Fund $16,180
Judy Kerstetter $500
Committee to Re-Elect Peter Buckley $1,000
Jackson County Local Action Coalition $2,674
Ashland Alternative Health $600


Protect Our Farmers campaign logo


The Good Neighbor Farmers is the chief committee in opposition to Measure 15-119. Opponents have begun a campaign in opposition to Measure 15-119 called Protect Oregon Farmers. Other opponents include:[17]

  • Oregonians for Food and Shelter
  • Oregon Farm Bureau Federation
  • Lane County Farm Bureau
  • Clackamas County Farm Bureau
  • Deschutes County Farm Bureau
  • Yamhill County Farm Bureau
  • Columbia County Farm Bureau
  • Jackson County Farm Bureau
  • Coos-Curry County Farm Bureau
  • Klamath-Lake County Farm Bureau
  • Tillamook County Farm Bureau
  • Oregon Wheat Growers League
  • Jackson County Cattlemen’s Association
  • Oregon Cattlemen’s Association
  • Oregon Women for Agriculture
  • Crook-Wheeler Farm Bureau
  • Oregon Seed Council
  • Oregon Dairy Farmers Association

​* Oregon State Senator Alan Olsen

  • Wilco
  • Castle Rock Farming
  • Columbia Helicopters
  • Oregon Association of Nurseries
  • Pacific Seafood
  • Jackson County Farm Bureau
  • Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative
  • American Crystal Sugar Co.
  • Sidney Sugars[13]
  • The multinational, Swiss corporation called Syngenta
  • Many other financial contributors to the "no" on Measure 15-119 are listed below.

Arguments against

The Jackson County Farm Bureau stands among those who oppose this measure. This organization argues that it is every farmers responsibility to co-exist with growers of a different type. The president of the Jackson County Farm Bureau, Ronald Bjork, said, "We believe that farmers need to get together and work out their own problems."[18]

Luther Markwart of the Sugar Beet Growers Association from Washington D.C. said, "We oppose any prohibition on the production of biotech crops in any county. The reason it is important to us is there is what we refer to as basic seed that is grown in the county."[13]

Campaign finance

The Good Neighbor Farmers committee in opposition to Measure 15-119 had received a total of $285,375 in contributions and had made expenditures of $123,951 as of March 21, 2014.[19] The following table shows some of the major contributions to this PAC, highlighting organizations and entities that have contributed $1,000 or more in opposition to Measure 15-119:[20][21]

Donor Amount
Big Horn Basin Beet Growers Association $10,000
Mountain States Beet Growers Association $2,000
New Mexico Farm and livestock Bureau $1,000
Idaho Farm Bureau Federation $2,000
B. Starker $1,000
The Oregon Cattlemen's Association $5,000
Klamath-Lake Co. Farm Bureau $1,000
Nebraska Non Stock Sugarbeet Growers Assn. Inc. $15,000
Pacific Seafood $25,000
Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative $20,000
Colorado Sugar Beet Growers Association $2,500
Arizona Farm Bureau Federation $1,000
Oregon Women for Agriculture $1,000
Colorado Farm Bureau $1,000
Union County Farm Bureau $1,000
Oregon Wheat Growers League $10,000
Castle Rock Farming, LLC $10,000
Jackson County Farm Bureau $5,000
American Crystal Sugar Co. $10,000
Crook-Wheeler County Farm Bureau $1,000
West Coast Beet Seed Company $10,000
Wyoming Sugar Company $10,000
Wilco $10,000
Yamhill County Farm Bureau $1,000
Deschutes County Farm Bureau $2,500
Indiana Farm Bureau $1,000
Western Sugar Cooperative $10,000
S.D. Farm Bureau Federation $10,000
Multnomah County Farm Bureau $7,500
The Amalgamated Sugar Company LLC $10,000
Michigan Sugar Company $10,000
Marion County Farm Bureau $2,500
Oregon Farm Bureau Political Action Committee $10,000
Oregon Farm Bureau Federation $25,000
Sidney Sugars $10,000
Texas Farm Bureau $5,000
Clackamas County Farm Bureau $2,500


Total campaign cash Campaign Finance Ballotpedia.png
as of March 21, 2014
Category:Ballot measure endorsements Support: $110,559
Circle thumbs down.png Opposition: $285,375
  • The Capital Press published an editorial against Measure 15-119.

The editorial board wrote that farmers should have the choice to grow GMO crops or not as they wish:[22]

"Voters in Jackson County, Ore., will this May decide whether they are pro-choice. They will decide whether a farmer has the right to choose which crop to grow without someone from the county government showing up and forcing him to tear out his crop. Though he may have successfully grown the crop for years, that won’t matter. For him, his right to choose will have evaporated, courtesy of a vote of the people."

The editorial also argued that it is illogical to have the county voters dictate policy on an agriculturally and economically complex issue:[22]

"No matter how you look at it, having voters dictate what shall and shall not be grown in the county is illogical. Farming requires a high level of knowledge about crops, soil and climate to choose a crop that will be successful and profitable. To hand that decision over to a random voter in Ashland or anywhere else makes no sense whatsoever. It turns the science of agriculture into a political football."

It went on to express the position that GMOs are in fact not harmful:[22]

"GMOs have been shown to be safe, successful and profitable. Though the drumbeat continues that they are somehow unsafe, that position is not backed up by anything other than assertions from those who hope to profit by sowing suspicion and conspiracy theories. And don’t let the activists fool you. Ask them for proof of the “evils” of GMOs and ask the tough questions. The “proof” boils down to interesting but unproven theories."

The editorial concluded by saying:[22]

"And be not mistaken. We’re not pro- or anti-GMO, just as we’re not pro- or anti-pro-organic. We’re pro-farmer. We believe there’s enough good earth for all farmers to grow all types of crops."


The multinational, Swiss corporation called Syngenta grows genetically modified seeds on over 20 small plots throughout Jackson County. These seeds are then shipped to other areas where they are used to produce a large portion of the commercial sugar beet seeds used around the country.[14]


County Administrator Danny Jordan, while stating that he was not advocating any particular position on the initiative, reported to the Jackson County Commissioners on the ramifications of the enactment of Measure 15-199. He said enforcement of the measure, including a full-time code inspector, time dedicated from a hearings officer, a contractor for testing and other county resources, would cost the county a minimum of $219,000 per year. He went on to say that, due to "undefined terms and vague terminology" in the measure, it could outlaw such things as grass seed, which is genetically modified to protect it from Roundup weed killer, and medical marijuana seeds, which, according to Jordan, are often soaked in a derivative of crocus bulbs in order to double its DNA, increasing the THC produced in each plant. Jordan, with regard to potential lawsuits over Measure 15-119, said, "In order to enforce the proposed Ordinance, the County is going to have to make policy/legal judgments on the various terms that are not defined, increasing the risk of litigation."[6] Jordan also noted the cost of the abatement of genetically modified organisms called for by Measure 15-119 is unknown. He said the cost could be nothing, if farmers all comply, but it could also cost as much as $2 million to completely purge GMO crops in a 20 acre field. Supporters pointed out that the ordinance was complaint driven, meaning costs of discovering genetic modification would be minimal. They also said that the county was under no legal obligation to enforce the GMO ban if Measure 15-119 passes.[12]

Relevant state laws

On October 3, 2013, Oregon legislators, in a 17-12 vote, approved Senate Bill 863, which prohibits Oregon counties, other than Jackson County, from regulating or banning genetically modified organisms. SB 863 claimed an emergency status in order to preclude efforts against GMOs in Benton and Lane counties. A recent court ruling, however, states that SB 863 cannot be used to keep initiatives off the ballot. It may be the source of a court battle if initiatives concerning agriculture regulation are approved, but, in the mean time, Benton, Josephine and Lane County activists are moving forward with their proposed measures.[4]

Similar measures

See also

External links

Suggest a link

Basic info



Additional reading


  1. “GMO Free Jackson County Files 6700 Signatures”, Jan. 2, 2013
  2. “Organic Oregon farmers attempt to ban genetically modified crops”, Jan. 2, 2013
  3. 3.0 3.1 “Initiative would ban GMO foods in Jackson County”, Jan. 2, 2013
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Oregonian, "GMO bill clears Oregon Senate (2013 special session)," October 2, 2013
  5. Farmwars, "Josephine County Moving Forward with Measure to Ban Planting of GMOs," February 8, 2014
  6. 6.0 6.1 Mail Tribune, "GMO ban enforcement would be costly, could affect lawns and medical pot, county says," March 12, 2014
  7. 7.0 7.1 15-119 Ordinance to Ban Growing of Some “Genetically-Engineered” (defined) Plants
  8. 8.0 8.1 Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
  9. Archived Our Family Farms Coalition website, accessed March 24, 2014
  10. GMO-Free Jackson County website, accessed February 21, 2014
  11. GMO Free Oregon website, accessed March 11, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 Mail Tribune, "Archived GMO opponents challenge county cost estimates," March 20, 2014
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Mail Tribune, "Outside seed money finances GMO battle," January 29, 2014
  14. 14.0 14.1 San Francisco Chronicle, "David-Goliath battle over GMO sugar beets in Ore.," corrected January 31, 2014
  15. Oregon Secretary of State Political Action Committee database, GMO Free Jackson County, accessed February 24, 2014
  16. Oregon Secretary of State Political Action Committee database, Our Family Farms Coalition, accessed February 24, 2014
  17. Archived Protect Oregon Farmers website, accessed March 24, 2014
  18. GMO Ban Petition Qualifies For Jackson County Ballot
  19. Note: The PAC Good Neighbor Farmers is also registered to oppose Measure 17-58 in Josephine County
  20. The Oregonian, "Opponents of GMO ban in Jackson County attract money from sugar beet industry," January 24, 2014
  21. Oregon Secretary of State Political Action Committee database, Good Neighbor Farmers, accessed February 24, 2014
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 The Capital Press, "Cooperation key to GMO vote in county," February 13, 2014