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Settlement in GMO case lets some afalfa growers keep their crops for eight years

U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke approved a settlement Tuesday that allows local farmers to continue to grow genetically modified alfalfa despite a GMO ban in Jackson County, but they must submit their field locations to attorneys representing GMO opponents.

Farmers with genetically modified or GMO alfalfa would have an eight-year period in which they could continue to grow their crops under terms of the settlement.

The settlement was agreed to by all parties in a lawsuit brought by Bruce Schulz of Gold Hill and James and Marilyn Frink of Sams Valley against Jackson County. Shulz said he would lose more than $2.2 million if he had to remove his alfalfa.

Jackson County voters in May 2014 overwhelmingly supported a ban on genetically modified crops.

Since then, the Swiss biotechnology firm Syngenta has confirmed it has stopped growing test plots of GMO sugar beets, which it grew on leased land in the Rogue Valley.

But some farmers who had already started growing GMO alfalfa protested. The so-called Roundup-ready alfalfa can be sprayed with the Roundup herbicide and continue to thrive while surrounding weeds are killed.