Special Session GMO Bill Raises Eyebrows

By Chris Lehman

Critics of genetically modified foods are lobbying hard to get the issue off the agenda in next week’s special legislative session in Salem. Oregon lawmakers will return to the capitol Monday to vote on taxes and pensions. But the negotiated series of bills includes a measure to preempt local bans on GMO's.

The special session follows an agreement between legislative leaders and Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber. It includes some tax hikes and tax cuts. The deal also comes with cuts to pensions for some retired public employees. 

But to win some yes votes, negotiators agreed to include a completely unrelated item. It would override future local bans on genetically modified organisms. GMO opponent Ivan Maluski of the group Friends of Family Farmers says there's no justification for including it in a special session on budget issues.

Ivan Malsuki: "It's outrageous that this bill has come up in this way. If we want to have a discussion of the appropriate policies around genetically engineered foods and crops, we should be saving that for a regular session."

A similar bill passed the Oregon Senate in May but died in the House. Supporters of the measure say it would prevent what they call a "patchwork" of local agricultural regulations.

Senate Bill 633 from 2013 regular session: https://olis.leg.state.or.us/liz/2013R1/Measures/Overview/SB633

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