Sponsored by Lane Powell

Seeds of dissent

| Print |  Email
Articles - April 2012
Thursday, March 22, 2012
Frank Morton of Wild Garden Seed, along with 82 other farmers and groups, is a  plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against Monsanto and its genetically modified seeds.
// Photo by Alexandra Shyshkina
Seed growers on both sides of the aisle agree that purity drives their markets. And in the Willamette Valley, farmers have long purified crops through a pinning system overseen by the Willamette Valley Specialty Seed Association. Through it, farmers map where crops will be planted, and work to create space between them to keep them from outcrossing.

“It’s like chess, but backwards, because you keep adding pieces to the board,” says Dan Hillburn, plant division administrator at the Oregon Department of Agriculture.

Today, every type of brassica (a genus of plants in the mustard family) is grown for organic seed in the valley, along with spinaches, radishes, chard and beets. Squash, pumpkins and cucumbers are also grown. So are flowers, onions and cool-season vegetables, to name a sampling.

“The seed industry in this valley is a very important place in the world. There are not that many places left that are this big where seeds grow well, so this is sort of like the last best place to grow seeds,” said Hillburn.

As GMO varieties are introduced, there is less space for organic and more risk. Though sugarbeets were the first GMO crop to arrive, there is pressure to introduce canola, which crosses with brassicas. GMO wheat and brassicas also exist, and possible entry into the valley is a concern. Hillburn imagines such problems will grow for organic farmers as GMO crops are deregulated, sold on the open market, and planted outside the “pinning system” (pinned maps) as sugarbeets can be.

Though GMO corn, a common — and deregulated — crop, is not a problem yet, he said. “I think it is only a matter of time.”

Sarah Kleeger owns Adaptive Seeds in Sweet Home, which breeds vegetable and flower seeds for the Pacific Northwest. It illustrates how issues with GMO crops perpetuate. Her farm used to grow Roundup Ready sugarbeet seeds and is a mile downwind from another grower. The farm weeds aggressively to keep beet seed from harming business. But Kleeger says she isn’t sure how long they will persist in the ground and is concerned about evidence GMO traits may transfer in soil by virus.

“In an ideal world, we would be able to grow beta crops here, but we can’t,” she says. While the farm isn’t certified organic, and wouldn’t lose certification if contaminated, “Our customers are the ones that care, not the government,” Kleeger says.


More Articles

The 10 most successful crowdfunding campaigns in Oregon

The Latest
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
081915-crowdfundingmainBY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

One of the hottest new investment trends has proven quite lucrative for some companies.


Keep Pendleton Weird

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

Eastern Oregon marketers refocus rural assets through an urban lens.


The Cover Story

The Latest
Tuesday, October 06, 2015
100515-cover1015-news-thumbBY CHRIS NOBLE

As we worked on the October cover, it became evident that Nick Symmonds is a hard man to catch — even when he’s not hotfooting it around a track.


Storyteller in Chief: Power Player

September 2015
Wednesday, August 19, 2015

In 1996, after a 17-year career in the destination marketing industry, where I gained national standing as the CEO of the Convention & Visitors Association of Lane County, I was recruited by the founders of a new professional basketball league for women. The American Basketball League (ABL) hoped to leverage the success of the 1996 USA women’s national team at the Atlanta Olympics — much like USA Soccer is now leveraging the U.S. Women’s National Team’s victory in the World Cup. The ABL wanted a team in Portland, and they wanted me to be its general manager.


Let it Rain

October 2015
Monday, September 28, 2015

This year has been so dry we were caught napping when it finally started to sprinkle. Hopefully you didn’t get caught in a downpour while eagerly awaiting — don’t deny it — our curation of Oregon-grown wet weather wear.


5 takeaways from the rural Oregon economic report

The Latest
Thursday, September 10, 2015

The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis released a report on the vitality of rural Oregon this week.  Media reports focused on the number of Californians moving to the "Timber Belt," but the document contained other interesting insights regarding regional challenges and successes.


Child care challenge

September 2015
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
0927OHSUhealthystarts-thumbBY KIM MOORE AND LINDA BAKER

Child care in Oregon is expensive and hard to find. We delved into the numbers and talked to a few executives and managers about day care costs, accessibility and work-life balance.

Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02