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MailTribune.com
  • Many Rogue Valley ag sectors expect little impact from potential GMO ban

  • Local tree-fruit growers, vintners and nursery operators say a ban on genetically modified organisms would have negligible impact on their operations.
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  • Local tree-fruit growers, vintners and nursery operators say a ban on genetically modified organisms would have negligible impact on their operations.
    "I don't think we'd have to do anything different — not that I know of," said Mike Naumes, president of Naumes Inc., which grows 1,600 acres of pears in the Rogue Valley. "I don't see any negative impact, but I'm certainly not an expert."
    There is, however, latent economic potential, if voters approve Measure 15-119, banning the use of genetically modified organisms in Jackson County, Southern Oregon University professor and climatologist Greg Jones said.
    "On one side of the coin, if you were in an all non-GMO area, that was identified as more organic, crop prices in the region would likely be a little higher at the market," Jones said. "Internally, but not so much externally, it could be very good for the overall agriculture economics in the region. On the other side, it's fairly well known that GMO-engineered crops produce a little more."
    Naumes said the only regional fruit industry discussion he's seen has been north of the Columbia River.
    "I was up in Washington and some of the (grocery) chains were asking people — especially organic growers — to print 'No GMO' on the boxes," he said.
    The biggest agricultural impact of a local ban would be on alfalfa, sugar beet and corn farmers, some of whom have been using GMO plants for years. Local sugar beet fields are largely used as seed producers for out-of-area corporations such as Monsanto or Syngenta, but alfalfa growers are generally local operations.
    David Sugar, a plant pathologist with the Oregon State University Extension Service in Central Point, said a ban could have an impact on Extension Service operations "down the road" but not in the immediate future.
    "In the present way we grow things, there would be no impact that I'm aware of," Sugar said. "I'm not aware of any inputs for production that are GMO-related. It's possible there may be some impact from possible future applications, but not at the present."
    Mark Wisnovsky, president of Valley View Winery, said he was unaware of any GMO technology available for grapevines, "or even in wine making."
    Veteran nurseryman Allen Payne of Cascade Nursery on Blackwell Road said he was unaware of any impact.
    "It hasn't been something I've thought about," he said, noting one customer asked this week if their blueberries were GMO-free.
    "We get them from several places, whoever has the best price," Payne said. "To this point, I've never asked and it's never been something I've had to deal with."
    Scott Mackison of Shooting Star Nursery on Taylor Road said fruit plants and trees make up less than 5 percent of his business and to his knowledge they have not been genetically engineered.
    "We sell hybrid plants, but nothing genetically modified," Mackison said. "Nothing we carry is Roundup-ready."
    Mackison said the raspberries and fruit trees his business sells are heirloom varieties that have been around for decades.
    "I had a customer who just moved up from California, who wanted to plant a little orchard," Mackison said. "They wanted to make sure the trees weren't GMO. It's not an issue yet, to my knowledge, none of our vendors sells GMO plants, I think they will show up in the orchards before they show up in the nursery world."
    Grange Co-op CEO Barry Robino, in an email, declined to comment on the measure or implications of the measure.
    "We don't want to speculate on possible merchandising implications," he wrote.
    — Greg Stiles
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