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Report exaggerates potential costs

At the Jackson County commissioners meeting on March 19, many local constituents spoke about the report given by Danny Jordan on the projected potential massive costs to Jackson County for implementing Measure 15-119 if it passes.

Many who spoke said that all of the counties who instituted a ban on GMOs have incurred zero to minimal costs. This huge discrepancy is very concerning. Jordan was asked to correct his report, but as of now it is still available on the Jackson County website.

After this meeting, I watched Jordan'sʼ presentation given March 12 online. He said he used other counties projections of estimated enforcement and abatement costs, but did not have the time to call counties with bans in place to find out actual costs and implications for enforcement. This is a huge oversight that has skewed his report.

He talked about the potential need to abate GMOs by removing and replacing topsoil, a very radical and unnecessary endeavor that would never need to be performed. He also talked about colchicine, a drug derived from the fall-flowering crocus used to treat gout and other health issues. He said colchicine is sometimes used in the cultivation of marijuana, and this use would render the plants genetically modified. According to him, these genetically altered plants would increase abatement and enforcement costs.This is false. Colchicine would not constitute genetic modification.

It seems to me that while the county says it has not taken a position on the measure, the report'sʼ tone, exaggerations and omissions seem to contradict this.

I contacted the agricultural commissioners for Mendocino and Marin counties, where bans are on the books, and learned that the costs for enforcement and investigations have been very low. Marin County has had no significant workload associated with its ordinance and no enforcement has been required. It occasionally has to answer questions about the ordinance, nothing more.

The Sonoma County agricultural commissioner told me that the pollen from brassicas (rapeseed grown for canola oil) can travel over a mile, and GMO canola has cross-pollinated with other plants of this species, creating roadside weeds resistant to Roundup that are now even more difficult and costly to control.

Growing numbers of consumers here in the valley are demanding pesticide-free and/or organic food. This is clear by the success of businesses such as the Ashland Food Cooperative, with $30 million in annual sales, 170 employees and the membership of over 9,000 people. During the peak of the growing season it purchases produce from more that 35 local growers and scores of other local manufacturers and producers. The Medford Food Co-op, opened in 2011, has steadily expanded and purchases produce from 38 local farmers and products from 119 local producers.

We can also look at our thriving local growers' markets as an indicator of the value our citizenry places on our local and organic farmers and crafters. Additionally, many local farmers grow and sell seeds.

The presence of Syngentaʼs GMO sugar beets in the Rogue Valley has negatively impacted our valley. Some local seed growers have lost the ability to produce non-GMO seeds and meet their contracts, and suffered financial loss. Another farmer reported the inability to sell his product overseas because of concerns over reported cases of GMOs contaminating non-GMO crops.

Reviewing the list of campaign contributors to the Good Neighbor Farmers PAC against the measure was quite concerning. Of the 107 contributors, only three were from our county, and 30 from out of state. G2 Public Strategies alone contributed more than $100,000, the Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative contributed $20,000. Do those out of the county and state have our best interests at heart? I doubt it.

Are they good neighbors? They are not neighbors at all. Please strongly evaluate the information they provide with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Benefits of GMOs have been oversold; many never have materialized. There are many known risks, from health concerns, pesticide-resistant insects, overuse of pesticides, superweed creation and loss of overseas sales, to name a few. There are other dangers and risks that are not fully known.

As I see it, we are all guinea pigs in a terribly misguided, uncontrolled experiment. Taking a precautionary approach to these risks is the wise thing to do. Let's support our health, environment and thriving family farms by voting yes on 15-119 this May.

Wendy Resnick lives in Ashland.