Enforcement woes threaten an Oregon county’s GMO ban.

  • While much attention in the area of GM legislation has focused on Vermont’s labeling law, the fact remains that other U.S. jurisdictions have enacted laws in this area as well.  Specifically, local bans on the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops have been enacted in counties in Hawaii and Oregon.
  • One Oregon county’s ban took effect on June 13, 2015, but concerns have been raised about the actual costs of enforcement.  First, the potential annual costs of enforcing the ban have been estimated at a crippling $200,000 a year.  Second, a federal judge has allowed alfalfa growers in the affected county to proceed with a “takings” claim against the state, the success of which would result in a significant payout to farmers to compensate them for the loss of their GM crops.
  • Unless and until the federal government acts to regulate GM crops and GM labeling, much of the activity in this area will continue to occur at the state and local levels.  The challenges inherent in enforcing state or local bans and labeling requirements likely will continue to include issues of preemption, takings, and potentially exorbitant cost (both in terms of enforcement and legal battles to defend measures).  These issues highlight the continued conflicts and tensions surrounding the cultivation and consumption of GM foods in the U.S. and illustrate the increasingly pressing need for harmonized regulation.