Oregon's GMO sellout: How Governor John Kitzhaber caved to corporate pressure

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(NaturalNews) A majority of voters in several Oregon counties have made it clear that they don't want genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) in their communities. But Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, recently sold them down the river by affixing his signature to a bill that blocks individual counties throughout Oregon from passing their own agriculture ordinances, in this case ones that prohibit the use of biotechnology.

The new law was sneakily added by state Republicans to an unrelated bill dealing with funding for public employee retirement and education, according to The Progressive. It emerged following talks throughout the state of imposing local bans on GM crops, as Oregon has long been a "home rule" state that recognizes both chartered and non-chartered counties as having autonomous freedom to establish their own rules and guidelines, independent from the state.

When news of a possible GMO ban reached the ears of biotech executives, special interest lobbying groups immediately kicked into high gear to stop it. Reports indicate that Big Ag corporations spent hundreds of thousands of dollars convincing cowardice legislators to sneak a provision into the unrelated bill which was discussed at a special session called last fall by Gov. Kitzhaber.

The provision, which is now being referred to as the "Monsanto Protection Act," explicitly forbids local governments from enacting or enforcing any ordinance, regulation, control area, or quarantine on any agricultural seed, vegetables seed, or flower seed, including those manufactured using biotechnology. Strikingly, the provision also matches model legislation created by the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) for use across the country.

Gov. Kitzhaber blatantly pimps his constituents to corporations

During the special session on employee pensions and school funding, Gov. Kitzhaber had the opportunity to respect the autonomy of Oregonians by rejecting the unrelated Big Ag provision. Instead, he sided with corporate interests and openly approved the rider as part of the larger bill, claiming that it was "the reality of the negotiating process."

But many of his constituents are outraged. Some of them told media sources that they are in total disbelief, unable to comprehend how an elected leader could so recklessly defy the democratic process without conscience. The move not only defies the tradition of Oregon politics, but it also declares war against family farmers from across the state who now feel betrayed.

"I can viscerally remember the day I looked at the headline," stated Lisa Arkin, executive director of the small non-profit group Beyond Toxics, to The Progressive. "It was such a deep feeling of disgust and disbelief. I couldn't believe that any amount of money from outside corporations could convince our elected leaders in Oregon to abandon the democratic process in that way."

Counties defy corrupt Gov. Kitzhaber, push for local GMO bans

Despite the new law, a growing number of Oregon counties is determined to outlaw GMOs. On May 20, the counties of Jackson and Josephine, for instance, each passed their own respective ballot measures prohibiting the planting of GM crops within their borders. Local citizens and Benton and Lane counties are working toward similar ends.

"Our main goal is to protect family farmers and keep local family farmers sustainable in the Rogue Valley," stated Elise Higley, a farmer from Jackson County and director of the Our Family Farms Coalition. "Having the counties decide on our own is imperative because in every county the layout of the land is so different."

According to reports, 68 percent of Jackson County residents voted in favor of the ban, which orders all GMOs in the county to be harvested, destroyed, or removed.

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