Kitzhaber doesn’t expect GMO panel consensus

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — The 13 members on the newly created task force on genetically engineered agriculture aren’t expected to reach consensus on the issue, but will help frame the discussion for legislators.

They met for the first time Thursday and will continue to meet through the fall.

“I want to begin by acknowledging the great degree of public interest and emotion that’s involved in debates over GE (genetically engineered) products and foods in the state of Oregon,” Gov. John Kitzhaber told the group.

Their job is to improve understanding and the range of issues surrounding genetically engineered agriculture, including conflicts between GE growers and organic growers.

“Each of you has been selected because you have particular experience or perspectivce or expertise or all three, either on co-existence issues or the consumer information issues or both,” said Richard Whitman, the governor’s Natural Resource officer.

The taskforce is a result of a promise Kitzhaber made during the special session last fall.

That’s when a bill passed, attached to other bills, banning cities and counties from regulating genetically engineered crops. The only exception was Jackson County, which already had a genetically modified foods ban vote planned for the May ballot.

But this group is not expected to come up with state policy. Instead, organizers said it’s a tool for policy makers to learn more about the issues as they head into the 2015 legislative session.

Kitzhaber thanked everyone for being on the panel and acknowleged the issue is red-hot.

“But I like to believe Oregon is a place where we can figure things out,” he said.

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