New Mediation System for Crop Disputes Voted On in Oregon
With so-called genetically modified crops, or GMO, causing much conflict across the country as people argue over the potential health and environmental impact of such engineered foods, disputes between farmers and companies over cross-pollination – when a GMO product crosses into and sometimes takes over a non-GMO field – have become increasingly common. With a flurry of lawsuits complicating matters and filling court dockets, Oregon is contemplating a bill that would require mediation by farm regulators in all GMO disputes.
The bill would require that all such disputes be brought to the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) for mediation. Any farmer who refuses to do so and proceeds with a lawsuit would be potentially on the hook for the other side’s legal fees if they lose. The ODA would also oversee any collection of seeds or crops as evidence of cross-pollination.
The state does not presently have any formal oversight of GMO crops, but legislation pending for 2015 may impose greater restrictions on GMO food and give the state more leeway. Many farmers who do not deal with GMO food label their output to indicate this, and feel any cross-pollination undermines their brand and their ability to keep their crops organic. Nationwide, GMO seeds are controversial and many consumers seek to avoid ingesting any GMO foods or feeding them to their families, and rely on labeling to be able to identify GMO food in the grocery and thus make efforts to avoid it.