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Group to propose ballot measure banning GMOs in Multnomah County

A newly formed group called Community Rights PDX says it will propose a ballot measure to ban the growing of genetically modified organisms — often called GMOs — in Multnomah County.

Similar initiatives have been filed in Lane, Jackson and Benton counties.

Community Rights PDX is kicking off its local campaign on Saturday, and hopes to recruit people who will help write the ballot measure language, said Paul Cienfuegos, group spokesman.

The measure likely will be similar to proposed bans in Lane and Benton counties, he said, but tailored to a more urban environment.

“What comes out of the ordinance is really up to the people who choose to be involved,” he said. “I think it’s likely that we end up banning all GMO agriculture” in the county.

The entire effort could be derailed by a deal, announced Wednesday by Gov. John Kitzhaber, on a package of measures to bring before lawmakers at a Sept. 30 special legislative session. The package, including additional public employee pension reductions and a mix of tax increases and tax breaks, also includes a measure that would ban new GMO restrictions at the local level.

Republicans sought that as part of the package deal.

Community Rights PDX isn’t daunted by that announcement, Cienfuegos said, because it has found a way in other states to get around such pre-emptions of local governments’ legal authority.

Community Rights PDX is affiliated with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania-based group that works on local measures. It’s supporters have passed 160 local measures in nine states, including restrictions on GMOs, natural gas fracking, among other topics, Cienfuegos said.

The local campaign is in its early stages, and advocates haven’t yet investigated which, if any, genetically modified crops are being grown on Multnomah County’s farms.

“We actually don’t know that, but it’s very likely that they are,” Cienfuegos said.

Community Rights PDX is holding two kickoff events on Saturday, Sept. 21, to raise money and launch the local campaign against GMOs, at Immaculate Heart church, 2910 N. Williams Ave.

There will be a fundraising dinner at 5:30 p.m. and general meeting at 7 p.m., both featuring presentations by Thomas Linzey, founder of the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, and based in Massachusetts. He’s also co-author of the book “Be the Change.”

For more information: http://communityrightspdx.org. or

http://www.celdf.org.