Oregon voters ban GMO crops in two counties!

An editorial in yesterday’s Washington Post  complained loudly about the decision by Oregon voters in two counties to ban GMO crops.   According to the writer, Oregon voters were just being silly since everyone knows that GMO technology is the “miracle” that will feed the multitude:

there is nothing reasonable about anti-GMO fundamentalism. Voters and their representatives should worry less about “Frankenfood” and more about the vast global challenges that genetically modified crops can help address.

Of course the writer failed to mention one excellent reason why voters might have taken such a drastic step.

When corporations design GMO crops their motive cannot always be counted upon to be benign.  In fact, rather than to make a food crop more nutritionally dense, the most common motives for modifying the organism is to increase the yield, make it more attractive, pest resistant, shelf-stable or easier to ship.

In fact, we know from experience that if any of these marketing advantages can only be had at the expense of nutritional value, the marketing advantage of the GMO will trump any nutritional concerns.

There is a darker side of GMO’s that has nothing to do with concerns about “mad science.”  

GMO products are programmed to succeed brilliantly; so brilliantly, in fact, that they pose a threat to the survival of heirloom varieties of the same food crops that must compete for cultivation in order to remain viable.  Without those diverse organisms in active cultivation, not only is the pleasure of choice diminished, but food security may actually be threatened.  If you wonder how that is possible, I recommend you read the chapter on rice in “Much Depends on Dinner” by Canadian cultural historian Margaret Visser.

Quite apart from the threat to food security from diminished diversity, there is an economic reason why Oregon farmers might not wish to have GMO’s in fields near their own.  Through distribution by wind and animals, those GMO’s can easily end up invading the fields of non-GMO farmers, asserting their super genes and overwhelming the heirloom varieties raised intentionally there.

Like Vermont, Oregon has a gourmet food industry that brands itself with the variety and abundance of its native products.  The economic consequences of a GMO or Monsanto hybrid invasion for a branded organic farmer could be devastating.

We have chosen in Vermont merely to require that products containing GMO’s be labelled as such.  That protects the consumers’ right to know; but if biodiversity and food security is to be protected, there will have to be some way to confine the proliferation of GMO’s in the environment.

Perhaps establishment of “GMO-free” counties is something Vermont should consider as well.

About Sue Prent

Artist/Writer/Activist living in St. Albans, Vermont with my husband since 1983. I was born in Chicago; moved to Montreal in 1969; lived there and in Berlin, W. Germany until we finally settled in St. Albans.

8 thoughts on “Oregon voters ban GMO crops in two counties!

  1. I just cant. I cant be categorically, uncritically, for now and forever, against an entire technology. I can be against specific applications, based on impacts, cost-benefit analyses, priorities, contexts, etc. I’m all for labeling because people always have a right to know. But I just can’t get behind this, as a matter of principle. It smacks of dogma, and politics-by-dogma never leads anywhere good. Sorry.

  2. Through distribution by wind and animals, those GMO’s can easily end up invading the fields of non-GMO farmers, asserting their super genes and overwhelming the heirloom varieties raised intentionally there.

    Much more insidiously, Monsanto has been known to file lawsuits against farmers whose crops were contaminated, for violating Monsanto’s intellectual property rights!  And, through ALEC and other forums, they have promoted immunity (for them) against liability for cross-contamination.

    My objections to GMO’s are probably quite a bit different from the popular “frankenfoods” meme.  I’m more concerned about the secondary effects, such as promoting resistance against Bt (a la antibiotic resistance from abuse of antibiotics in livestock feed) and the promotion of overuse of herbicides (eg, Roundup).

    Bt genes probably won’t harm humans if you eat them, but they can harm the entire food production chain.

    In reference to Odum’s comment, I sometimes wonder if the GMO industry deliberately promotes questionable objections to GMO’s in order to use them as straw-man opponents.

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