by J.D. Heyes
A federal judge has partially dismissed a lawsuit brought by two local commercial alfalfa farmers in Oregon and backed by biotech giant Monsanto who sought to overturn a Jackson County ordinance banning the use of GMO seeds.
As reported by Revolution News and The National Law Review, U.S. District Judge Mark D. Clarke struck down the farmers' claim that the anti-GMO ordinance, which was approved overwhelmingly a year ago and is set to take effect June 5, was in violation of the Oregon Right to Farm Act because it was a violation of their right to farm.
In part, the ordinance reads, "It is a county violation for any person or entity to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow genetically engineered plants within Jackson County."
In his ruling, Clarke said that, while the farming rights law prohibits ordinances and lawsuits that seek to treat common farming methods as trespass or nuisance, it does not protect activities that can harm commercial agriculture. The federal magistrate agreed with the defendants who argued that there was potential to taint organic crops as a result of cross-pollination with nearby commercial GMO crops.
"While farming practices may not be limited by a suburbanite's sensitivities, they may be limited if they cause damage to another farm's crops," Clark said. "Farmers have always been able to bring claims against other farmers [under the Right to Farm Act] for practices that cause actionable damage to their commercial agriculture products," and the local county ordinance simply "serves to prevent such damage before it happens," he wrote.