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GMO crops can’t be monitored or regulated in Oregon

By Tracy Loew

The Oregon Department of Agriculture has no authority to deal with conflicts between growers of genetically modified and non-GMO crops, director Katy Coba said in a letter to Gov. John Kitzhaber this week.

Nor does the department have authority to develop a mapping system to coordinate what is grown where and when, the letter said.

Kitzhaber directed ODA to do both as part of a deal he brokered with legislative leaders last fall to pass a statewide ban on local regulation of GMO crops as part of his “grand bargain” tax package.

DOCUMENT:Gov. Kitzhaber Letter

Only Jackson County, which already had qualified an initiative for the ballot, was exempt. Voters there passed a GMO crop ban in May.

In a letter to Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek last October, Kitzhaber asked ODA to complete an action plan for the work by June 2014.

Coba’s letter fulfills that requirement, ODA spokesman Bruce Pokarney said.

In her letter, Coba explained that state law does not require farmers to report information about their crops to ODA, making it impossible to map crops that could cross-pollinate.

ODA can regulate GMO crops that have not yet been de-regulated by the USDA. It has adopted one control area order under this authority, for genetically modified bentgrass grown for field trials in Jefferson County.

And it can provide input and monitor trials of so-called biopharmaceutical crops, or genetically modified crops designed to produce vaccines, drugs, enzymes or other medicinal compounds.

So far, ODA has not been notified of any biopharmaceutical crop trials proposed in Oregon, Coba said.

Neither Courtney nor Kotek could be reached for comment.

As part of the deal, Kitzhaber also promised to convene a task force to study both GMO crops and GMO labeling.

The Task Force on Genetically Engineered Agriculture will hold its sixth meeting July 10. The time and city of the meeting have not yet been released.

It is expected to release a draft report in the fall.

The original article published in the Statesman Journal on 7/3/14 can be found here.