Hoping to forestall a patchwork of agricultural regulation, Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber signed legislation last year barring counties from enacting GMO bans, exempting Jackson County because a measure was already on the ballot. He appointed a task force to recommend a way forward.
The law didn't stop opponents in neighboring Josephine County from putting up their own measure. If it passes, they will have to go to court to put it in force.
Chuck Burr grows more than 300 varieties of certified organic seed outside Ashland and is president of the Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association. He said he could not in good conscience try to sell his crop of chard seeds after learning Syngenta had a field close enough to be pollenated by them, and testing was expensive.
"If anybody ever wanted to push small farms out of the valley, that is how they would do it, with GMO crops," he said.