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|Tuesday, April 09, 2013|
BY SCOTT DAHLMAN | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR
Once again activists are trying to raise public fears about genetically engineered (GE) foods.
It’s hard to believe there’s anything more about GE foods to debate. In 2002, 70% of Oregon voters resoundingly rejected the idea of labeling foods containing GE ingredients. In the decade since, more and more farmers are choosing to grow biotech crops.
Last year 88% of the corn grown in the U.S. was genetically engineered, up from 34 percent of corn grown in 2002. More than 90% of all cotton, canola and soybeans grown in the U.S. also are biotech varieties.
Why are farmers planting biotech crops? Since they were first approved by federal agriculture and food safety regulators, experience globally has shown that GE crops have increased yields and broadly reduced negative impacts of farming on the environment.
Genetic engineering has been used to improve crop insect resistance, enhance crop herbicide tolerance and allow the use of more environmentally sustainable farming practices such as “low-till” or “no-till” farming.
But anti-GE zealots continue to claim plants improved using biotechnology somehow pose dangers, despite ever-mounting evidence to the contrary from scientists and food regulators around the world. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, the World Health Organization, the National Research Council of the National Academies of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Medical Association and the American Dietetic Association have all concluded that biotech derived foods are as safe as their non-GE counterparts.
Last November, California voters defeated another labeling initiative like the defeated Oregon measure. Voters in both states spurned the labeling proposals because they were deceptive, confusing and costly. Editorials in all the major newspapers across California recommended a no vote.
The defeat of two labeling ballot measures 10 years apart hasn’t stopped GE opponents. In Washington State, anti-GE groups presented yet another labeling initiative to legislators earlier this year. And two labeling bills were introduced in the Oregon legislature.
In addition to labeling, some anti-GE groups are now seeking to ban the growing of biotech crops. A local initiative in Jackson County is one example.
Such crop bans arguably violate Oregon’s Right to Farm laws. In Oregon, farmers have the right to choose what crops and farm production technologies work best for them to produce products that meet the needs of markets they choose to serve. Local laws can’t interfere with those rights.
But activists argue that the growing of biotech crops is a risk to organic farmers. Despite such claims, no hard data shows any economic losses resulting from unintended presence of GE material in organic crops.
What farmers want is the right to decide for themselves how they farm and what they grow. The Oregon Board of Agriculture has outlined state policies to support the “wise management of all production systems on farmlands and agriculture applications, striving for economic viability, natural resource stewardship, good neighbor and employee relations, and community connections.”
The “good neighbor” advice in the board’s policy encourages cooperative coexistence among farmers. Coexistence is especially important given the diversity of production practices in agriculture today.
Coexistence is not a new idea. Farmers operate within communities and most already cooperate with neighbors toward their common success.
While talk of coexistence currently centers around GE and organic crops, biotech crops do not create any risks different from those posed by organic or conventional crops. The principles of coexistence and the need to preserve the integrity of crops apply to all agricultural production.
Oregon State University’s Agricultural Extension Service offers unique capabilities to help guide coexistence efforts for farmers in the state. Extension agents can help farmers and others in the food and feed production chain get the education they need about their respective roles in making coexistence work, particularly regarding stewardship, contracting and attention to gene flow.
The Willamette Valley Specialty Seed Association in one of the best examples of managed coexistence. A similar structure is under consideration in Southern Oregon – a better approach to organic producers concerns than banning GE crops.
Many Jackson County Farm Bureau members are discussing the best way to encourage coexistence among farmers in the Rogue Valley. Taking a page from Board of Agriculture, some Rogue Valley farmers have formed a loose coalition called the Good Neighbor Farmers.
Most in Oregon’s farming and food production industry share the view of Jackson County’s Good Neighbor Farmers. The right idea is collaboration, cooperation and coexistence.
Costly labeling laws and crop bans don’t make sense, aren’t good for consumers and would hurt Oregon farmers. Being good neighbors is good for everyone.
Scott Dahlman is executive director of Oregonians for Food and Shelter
Editor's Note: Oregon Business accepts opinion pieces on topics relevant to the state's business community. See Op-Ed submission guidelines here.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY LINDA BAKER
In 2010 Vanessa Keitges and several investors purchased Portland-based Columbia Green Technologies, a green-roof company. The 13-person firm has a 200% annual growth rate, exports 30% of its product to Canada and received its first infusion of venture capital in 2014 from Yaletown Venture Partners. CEO Keitges, 40, a Southern Oregon native who serves on President Obama’s Export Council, talks about market innovation, scaling small business and why Oregon is falling behind in green-roof construction.
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
BY LINDA WESTON
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.
Monday, September 28, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE
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.
Monday, September 28, 2015
BY TIM NEVILLE
Betty Roppe steers Prineville into the future.
Wednesday, September 30, 2015
BY KIM MOORE
Striving for social equity is the mission of many nonprofits, and this year’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon survey shows employees are most satisfied with their organizations’ fair treatment of differing racial, gender, disability, age and economic groups. But as a national discourse about racial discrimination and equity for low-income groups takes center stage, data show Oregon’s 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For still need to make progress on addressing these issues within their own organizations.
Thursday, September 10, 2015
BY JACOB PALMER | DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR
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.
Wednesday, September 09, 2015
BY CHRIS NOBLE | ART DIRECTOR
|The List: 100 Best Nonprofits to Work For in Oregon|
|Run, Nick, Run|
|100 Best Nonprofits: Working for equality inside and out|
|One Tough Mayor|
|Keep Pendleton Weird|
|Cream of the Crop|
|Portland State campus security to carry guns|
|Twitter's Steve Jobs?|
|American Apparel files for Ch. 11|
|Hiring report disappoints|
|Phil Knight memoir: Coming spring 2016|
|2 out of 5 millennials pay for their news|
|Oregon's graying workforce|
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After first visiting as tourists, entrepreneurs relocate to Oregon and spur economic growth.
Hans N. Hugglerhas joined Lane Powell as an Attorney in the Litigation Practice Group, where he will focus his practice on complex litigation.
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Are you planning a meeting, party, gala, fundraiser, holiday party, golf tournament, retirement party, team building or birthday? You won’t want to miss this show to get hundreds of great ideas!