Court Says County GMO Ban Consistent with Right to Farm Law

The plaintiffs in this case were farmers that raised genetically modified alfalfa who sued the defendant county on the basis that a county ordinance banning the propagation, cultivation, raising or growing of genetically engineered plants in the county violated the state (OR) right-to-farm law and amounted to a taking of the plaintiffs' private property requiring compensation under the Constitution.  The court (the decision was made by a federal magistrate judge rather than a federal district judge) determined that the ordinance did not conflict with the right-to-farm law because that law did not bar lawsuits between farmers for activities that damage other agricultural products. Thus, the court reasoned, the purpose of the ordinance was to prevent damage to non-GMO (conventional and organic crops) and that purpose was consistent with the right-to-farm law.  The court did not address the constitutional taking claim.  The court also did not address the fact that, under the court's rationale, the plaintiffs would be able to sue non-GMO farmers in the county on a nuisance theory for non-GMO crops which, because of the court's decision upholding the ordinance, now amounts to an activity which damages other agricultural products (i.e., GMO crops) that is not protected under the right-to-farm statute.  The court also did not address the fact that GMO crops grown just over the county line could have pollen drift that would "contaminate" non-GMO crops in the county for which the ordinance would not apply.  Shultz Family Farms, et al. v. Jackson County, No. 1:14-cv-01975, 2015 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 69587 (D. Ore. May 29, 2015).

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