In a recent opinion piece in the Capital Press, Jerry Erstrom, the chairman of the Weed Board in Malheur County in southeastern Oregon, spoke out in support of holding ag businesses accountable for the damage caused by cross-pollination from GE crops.
Malheur County is in the heart of ranch country and right next door to the infamous Malheur Wildlife Refuge, which was occupied by several ranchers in early 2016 to make a case for de-regulation of federal lands. It is similar country to Sherman County, OR which recently experienced it’s own controversy over weed control that we covered here on Hygeia Analytics.
Oregon farmers grow thousands of acres of grasses- the region is often dubbed the “Grass Seed Capital of the World.” Mr. Erstrom is a farmer himself and “not opposed to genetially engineered crops” (he even grows Roundup Ready corn on his farm). But, he has seen with his own eyes the negative impacts of GE contamination, and in particular GE creeping bentgrass, which is a popular grass seed for lawns and golf courses.
The editorial is posted in it’s entirety below, or view it on the Capital Press site here.
Jerry Erstron, “GE developers should be held accountable,” Capital Press, published online June 21, 2017.
GE developers should be held accountable
I am not opposed to genetically engineered crops, but as a farmer of some non-GE varieties and after my experience with GE contamination in my alfalfa seed production and with the GE creeping bentgrass escape, I am a supporter of making the right people accountable if crops are damaged. That is why I support HB 2739.
As the chairman of the Malheur County Weed Board, I’ve had a front row seat to the damage caused by Roundup Ready GE bentgrass, which spreads easily on the wind and through water, infesting irrigation ditches and cross-pollinating with wild relatives.
Because USDA let Scotts and Monsanto off the hook for cleaning up their mess in 2015, the burden is now on farmers and landowners to deal with this infestation. And that’s not cheap: Before 2015, Scotts was spending $250-350k a year to find and treat GE bentgrass.
I’m concerned for my crops, as the value would plummet if I am contaminated with GE traits. If my crop, or say a grass seed crop in the Grass Seed Capital of the World, is damaged, isn’t it fair that the company who made that GE trait pay compensation?
The opponents of HB 2739 say the sky will fall if HB 2739 is passed, with outlandish predictions like the end to all sales of GE seeds in Oregon or all innovation of new varieties. That is ridiculous — there is no way this bill would stop the sales or production of Roundup Ready crop varieties, they are just too lucrative for the companies making and selling them.
Why would groups like the Oregon Farm Bureau, Oregonians for Food and Shelter, and even OSU say such things? The answer is clear when you look at who finances these organizations: They all get funding from Monsanto and/or other Big Ag chemical companies. So that is who they represent, not farmers like me.