Anti-GMO protesters rally at Capitol

A protester urges a no vote on Oregon Senate Bill 633 that would prohibit local governments from banning genetically modified crops, Sept. 26, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)
A protester urges a no vote on Oregon Senate Bill 633 that would prohibit local governments from banning genetically modified crops, Sept. 26, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — The state of Oregon has a patchwork system where each county can decide how to regulate crops. But the legislature’s special session, called by Gov. John Kitzhaber for Monday, could change that.

Protester urge a no vote on Oregon Senate Bill 633 that would prohibit local governments from banning genetically modified crops, Sept. 26, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

Protester urge a no vote on Oregon Senate Bill 633 that would prohibit local governments from banning genetically modified crops, Sept. 26, 2013. (KOIN 6 News)

An overflow crowd filled an open session at the Capitol in Salem on a special hearing for a bill that would prohibit local governments from banning genetically modified crops.

Genie Harden was among a small group of protesters outside the Capitol urging defeat of Senate Bill 633.

“We want to make these decisions at a local level, at a community level,” she said. “And we want to preserve those rights for ourselves.”

A mask-wearing protester held a sign that said “No GMO,” and read a statement:

“Have no doubt. GMO’s are a clear and present economic danger to Oregon as a culture. The people have a right to be heard and this body has a duty to listen. Kill 633.”

The session was attended by a mix of lawmakers, environmentalists, farmers and those who were there to discuss the Public Employees Retirement System (PERS).

The GMO item was slipped in at the last minute, but Kitzhaber called it a part of the framework created by legislative leadership that he will endorse.

Gov. John Kitzhaber at a special hearing in the Oregon legislature, Sept. 26, 2013 (KOIN 6 News)

Gov. John Kitzhaber at a special hearing in the Oregon legislature, Sept. 26, 2013. (KOIN 6 News)

“This is about whether or not we think there should be 36 different agricultural policies or whether we should have one state policy,” the governor said. “It is not a debate about whether we want agricultural industry that includes genetically engineered products.”

The Oregon Farm Bureau also backs the bill.

Some people said it should be up to farmers individually how they manage their crops. But others worry about the environment and any contamination.

“I’m definitely for organic food,” said Julia Apt, “and I do not want to eat RoundUp in my soybeans.”

Several Oregon counties already ban or are trying to ban GMO crops.

This will be considered by the legislatures in the special session Monday.

– KOIN 6 News Reporter Elissa Harrington contributed to this report.


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