- Associated Press - Thursday, March 13, 2014

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) - A local ban on genetically modified crops could cost Jackson County more than $200,000 a year to enforce, according to a report the county commissioners asked for.

The report delivered Wednesday by County Administrator Danny Jordan also said the ban could put a stop to medical marijuana crops grown from seed to increase its DNA and yield and could bar strains of lawn grass that are genetically modified, the Medford Mail Tribune (http://bit.ly/1kPkVC1) reported.

Advocates of the measure on the May ballot disputed the estimates, saying costs should be minimal, at most, because the county has discretion in enforcement efforts.

“We’ve already heard the opponents trying to scare people by claiming the Family Farms measure would have high enforcement costs, but this is pure political fiction,” said Elise Higley, the director for Our Family Farms Coalition.

Organic farmers who fear their crops will be tainted through cross-pollination have backed the measure.

If voters approve it, the measure would be unique among Oregon’s 36 counties. The Legislature has since voted to pre-empt local regulation of genetically modified crops, allowing the Jackson County measure to be grandfathered.

Jordan said the estimate was based on having a full-time code inspector, a hearings officer’s time, the cost of a testing contractor and administrative expenses.

The measure has “undefined terms and vague terminology” that will give county officials trouble, Jordan said.

“In order to enforce the proposed ordinance, the county is going to have to make policy/legal judgments on the various terms that are not defined, increasing the risk of litigation,” he said.

The report also said the costs of cleaning up fields could run to thousands of dollars an acre, depending on whether soil was removed and dumped in a landfill or whether the fields were chemically fumigated and heated.

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Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/

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