A recent report in the Medford Mail Tribune stated that voters in Jackson County in southwest Oregon will decide in May 2014 whether to ban genetically modified (GMO) crops in the county.
According to the report, enough of the more than 6,700 signatures submitted by GMO-Free Jackson County were verified to qualify the measure for the election.
Petitioner Brian Comnes of Ashland said the signature validity rate was 87 percent after a statistical sampling of 10 percent of the names.
"We're very encouraged by the high success rate ... but it will still be a big challenge to get 40,000 yes votes in the election, because the bio-tech crowd always shows up and spends a lot of money to defeat these things," Comnes said.
The GMO-Free measure would ban anyone from raising genetically engineered plants in Jackson County, with exemptions for scientific research. It also calls for the county to conduct inspections and allows enforcement through citizen lawsuits.
GMO proponents say genetically modified crops are more resistant to weeds and pests, easier to grow and more productive.
Multinational Swiss corporation Syngenta raises genetically modified sugar beets less than four miles away from several local organic farms, whose owners worry that cross-pollination could threaten their organic certification.
The initiative now becomes a measure on the May 2014 election ballot unless the commissioners hold a special election.
This success in moving toward GMO limits in Jackson County comes on the heels of a successful initiative drive in Washington to get a measure in play to require foods containing GMO ingredients to be labeled as such in the state.
A similar measure was defeated in California last year after a $50 million ad blitz by powerful seed and food companies like Monsanto and Coca Cola.
Opponents of GMO crops claim the science behind genetic engineering is not as sound as proponents say it is. Futhermore they claim that since GMO crops are banned in many countries, farmers would lose some of their export market by growing them.
If the measure passes it will be a first for Oregon and the Northwest.