It's been over a year now since a small group of organic and conventional farmers, along with food advocates, came together to confront the issue of GMOs in their county. During that time, the BCCRC has built a coalition of supporters, hosted numerous public presentations as well as a community rights workshop taught by the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund Democracy School, and co-sponsored the Willamette Valley Farm and Food Rights Summit. |
On June 5, 2013,the What's In Our Future Benton County petition committee (a political action committee) resubmitted a Sustainable Food System Ordinance to the Benton County Clerk for approval to circulate a petition to residents. The group had submitted a similar version of the ordinance back in October of 2012. According to one judge's findings in February 2013, the group has made the necessary corrections to meet the single subject requirement for a local citizens' initiative.
The Sustainable Food System Ordinance of Benton County establishes citizens' rights to: a sustainable food system; seed heritage; and clean air, water, and soil for sustainable agriculture in Benton County. The ordinance also prohibits unsustainable practices - like the planting of GMO's - that would violate those rights.
The BCCRC believes that as free citizens, we must elevate our community's rights above the corporate "rights" and state preemptions that currently usurp our ability to decide the face of agriculture in our own community. The Coalition not only asserts its community's rights to a sustainable food system, but also asserts the inalienable rights of nature to exist, persist and flourish.
The BCCRC is one of many coalitions bubbling up across the United States to demand the rights guaranteed to citizens by the federal and state constitutions. The right to local self-governance is a fundamental and inalienable right:
- The Declaration of Independence asserts that governments are instituted to secure the rights of people
- Section 1 of the Oregon Constitution recognizes that "all power is inherent in the people"
- Article VI, Section 10 of the Oregon Constitution guarantees home rule powers to Counties
- Section 203.035 of Chapter 203 of the Oregon Revised Statutes grants counties ordinance-making power to address matters of County concern
The issue of corporate-led agriculture and the threat to rural communities and family farmers in Oregon is not new. Recent events, including the introduction of Senate Bill 633, which is aimed at completely eliminating any local control of agricultural seed; the Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA)'s decision to expand canola production in the Willamette Valley exclusion zone at the expense of the local specialty seed industry; and the discovery of unauthorized GMO wheat in eastern Oregon, which threatens multi-million dollar grain contracts, have made it clear that deep change is needed in order to protect the local farm and food system.
"It's time that we reclaim what has always been rightfully ours, that is, our right to grow and produce food in a manner that protects the health and safety of this county and strengthens our local economy," says Clint Lindsey, farmer and chief petitioner of What's In Our Future Benton County. "Big agribusiness has one goal in mind: that is to control the entire food system no matter the cost to people and the environment, nor how indentured farmers and the public become to that corporate system. We cannot afford to wait for the federal and state governments to save us. In fact they have been more than happy to authorize and protect the corporate assaults to our local farm and food systems."