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MailTribune.com
  • GMO ban passes

    Jackson County voters strongly back measure to prevent genetically modified plants
  • A packed room of supporters of a measure to ban genetically modified plants in Jackson County erupted in cheers Tuesday night in a downtown Medford restaurant after hearing that early voter returns were in their favor.
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  • A packed room of supporters of a measure to ban genetically modified plants in Jackson County erupted in cheers Tuesday night in a downtown Medford restaurant after hearing that early voter returns were in their favor.
    By 10 p.m., early returns showed 66 percent of voters were in favor of measure 15-119 while 33 percent were opposed.
    "We're so far ahead, that there is no way they can catch up," said Elise Higley, director for the Our Family Farms Coalition, a group that campaigned in support of the measure, after the preliminary results were announced. "So, we have officially won."
    Of 47,985 votes, the measure was winning with 31,681 voters in favor and 13,304 opposed.
    Higley thanked volunteers for coming together to pass something large corporations were opposed to.
    "We fought the most powerful and influential chemical companies in the world, and we won," said Higley. "A million dollars can't buy jack."
    A representative for Good Neighbor Farmers, a group in opposition of the bill, said the results were unfortunate.
    "We're definitely disappointed," said Ian Tolleson, who gathered with a group of farmers and others opposed to 15-119 in a meeting room at the Rogue Regency Inn.
    "It's unfortunate to see ideology win over common sense and science," said Tolleson. "Although this election is over, the debate is not."
    The election was the most expensive in county history, with $1.2 million in campaign funds raised by the first week in May. More than $875,000 poured into the anti-measure campaign, with donors including major agricultural corporations such as Monsanto and Syngenta that grow GMO seed,.
    If the final results of the vote hold with the Tuesday trend, the growing of genetically modified plants will be banned in Jackson County, and genetically modified plants already growing must be harvested or destroyed within 12 months.
    Supporters of 15-119 also cheered the results of a similar genetically modified crop ban in Josephine County, Measure 17-58, were announced.
    Early returns in Josephine County showed 57.9 percent of voters in favor of a ban and 42.1 percent opposed.
    Kristina Lefever, a two-year volunteer with the Our Family Farms Coalition and the 15-119 initiative, said she was thrilled with the results of the Jackson County vote.
    "It's unbelievable, awesome, incredible," said Lefever, who lives in Ashland. "I am so happy."
    Lefever said the outcome was the result of extensive volunteer work.
    "It shows what Jackson County can do when they come together," she said. "Without every single person that volunteered, we couldn't have done it. It's been an awesome effort."
    Jacksonville couple Bob and Cheryl Lathan said they supported 15-119 because their children are farmers who previously worked on a farm in Ruch.
    "If we eliminate GMOs from the Rogue Valley, the agriculture here will increase, and the dollar value of it will increase," said Bob Lathan, before hearing the first batch of results. "The bottom line is we are hoping the GMO initiative wins — and there are so many reasons why."
    After hearing the results of the early returns, Cheryl Latham said she was relieved.
    "We really weren't sure what was going to happen," she said. "We're in bliss."
    Teresa Ristow is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Email her at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.
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