The Ashland City Council is scheduled to decide whether to send a letter to Jackson County Commissioners asking for a ban on genetically modified crops in the county.
The council meets at 7 tonight in the Ashland Civic Center Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.
Through its Natural Resources Advisory Committee, Jackson County has been exploring the feasibility of adopting an ordinance that would ban the use of genetically modified seeds in the county, according to a city of Ashland staff memo to councilors.
A number of citizen and business groups have expressed concerns that genetically modified crops can contaminate other plants within a radius of up to five miles, thus posing a threat to organic farms in the county, including those in and around Ashland, the memo said.
A draft letter to Jackson County Commissioners states that potential risks and long-term effects of genetically engineered crops have not been adequately studied.
"Many companies, local businesses and foreign markets do not accept genetically engineered food products, so the danger of contaminating and thereby reducing the value of neighboring crops via wind- and insect-borne gene drift from genetically engineered crops creates a serious economic threat to farmers and ranchers," the draft letter states.
The letter asks Jackson County Commissioners to ban genetically engineered crops outright, or to place the issue on the ballot for residents to decide.
The issue of genetically modified food continues to be debated around the world, with some saying the crops could harm the environment, the organic food industry and people's health.
Others say crops can be genetically engineered to withstand insect pests and drought, produce higher yields to feed a growing population and develop other favorable characteristics.
Supporters of genetically modified crops say that people have been modifying plants for thousands of years already via agriculture.
In other business tonight, the council is scheduled to decide whether to approve a new sculpture to be installed in front of Ashland Fire Station No. 2 on Ashland Street.
A new fire station is under construction there, replacing a small, aging facility that was torn down earlier this year.
The sculpture proposed there would be a metal silhouette of a head, titled "Open Minded."
The cost would be $15,000, with funding coming from an Ashland ordinance requiring that one half of one percent of city capital project budgets be devoted to public art.
The council is also slated to decide whether to approve plans to paint five utility boxes on the Calle Guanajuato with plant designs.
Artists would be paid $250 per box.
The city of Ashland first began selecting artists to paint utility boxes around town in 2009, and has continued that program with subsequent painting projects.
For a complete list of agenda items, details on each item and artists' drawings of proposed public art projects, visit http://www.ashland.or.us/Page.asp?NavID=15092.
Staff reporter Vickie Aldous can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.