Lane County Clerk and Judge Act As Gatekeepers of People’s Right to the Initiative Process

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact information:
Rob Dickinson – (541) 543-5735
Ann Kneeland, Esq. – (541) 514-9720
Support Local Food Rights
www.localfoodrights.com
Phone: (541) 272-6234

 

On October 6, Lane County Circuit Court Judge Charles Carlson issued a decision upholding County Clerk Cheryl Betschart’s determination that the Local Food System Ordinance of Lane County failed to meet pre-election requirements. The decision is a victory for the corporations that profit from GMO agriculture in Lane County and for GMO farmer John Reerslev, who intervened in the matter. It is a setback for local farmers, food-related businesses and residents alike who are personally and economically invested in local agricultural products – both organic and conventional. However, initiative supporters are undeterred; they are already planning next steps for their efforts to protect the Lane County local food system.

Chief Petitioner Lynn Bowers and members of Support Local Food Rights filed the initiative to protect the Lane County local food system from the contamination of genetically engineered organisms (known as GMOs). They engaged the initiative process because the local, state and federal governments are failing to act to prevent the irreversible and devastating harms to local farms caused by these airborne contaminants.

While the Court’s decision was not unexpected, it is frustrating given the solid legal precedent in support of the initiative’s compliance with pre-election requirements. “The single-subject rule is actually broader than it sounds.” said Ann Kneeland, attorney for the initiative’s Chief Petitioner. “The Oregon Supreme Court has addressed this issue numerous times. Specifically, the Court has said: ‘[W]hatever means may tend directly or indirectly to accomplish th[e] object [of the single subject] may be properly included in the act.’ Clearly, the Local Food System Ordinance complies with this standard since all of the provisions of the initiative serve to protect the local food system.”

Together, the decisions of the County Clerk and the judge represent a roadblock to Lane County residents’ access to the initiative system that allows residents to write their own law. In the absence of a law protecting local farms, corporations like Syngenta and Monsanto will continue to bring more genetically engineered food varieties to the Willamette Valley. Support Local Food Rights remains committed to advocating for a law elevating the community’s right to decide what our food system looks like over those claimed by corporate executives.

Lynn Bowers said: “If you look into our early American history, you find the inalienable right to govern ourselves right there in the Declaration of Independence. That means that we have the right to protect our local food system from threats posed by multi-national corporations intent to plant GMO crops in Lane County.”

Support Local Food Rights will continue its effort to secure legal protection for the Lane County local food system. Local farmers, business owners and residents are joining forces to get a revised initiative before Lane County voters as soon as possible. A public meeting, hosted by Community Rights Lane County, will provide a forum for a discussion of next steps on Monday, October 20, 2014 from 6:30 – 8:00 pm at the First United Methodist Church, 1376 Olive, Eugene.

 

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