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GMO ban enforcement would be costly, could affect lawns and medical pot, county says

 Posted: 11:00 AM March 12, 2014

A ballot measure that would ban genetically modified organisms could cost Jackson County $219,000 a year to enforce and could affect everything from residential lawns to medical marijuana, County Administrator Danny Jordan says.

Jordan outlined the costs and ramifications of Ballot Measure 15-119 to the Board of Commissioners this morning. The measure, which would ban the growing of genetically engineered plants in Jackson County, will be decided in the May 20 primary.

Under the measure, medical marijuana and even lawn seed could be banned, since common strains of both are genetically modified, Jordan said.

Marijuana growers often soak the seeds in a derivative of crocus bulbs to double the DNA, which in turn doubles or quadruples the production of THC, the chemical that causes the high in users, Jordan said.

"This method produces the highest potency marijuana varieties and the seeds commonly sold by online vendors," Jordan said in his PowerPoint presentation to the commissioners.

A common lawn seed, Scotts Miracle-Gro, is genetically modified to protect it from Roundup weed killer, he said.

Enforcing the ordinance would be problematic because the county does not have the means to test plants and would have to use an independent contractor to meet the ordinance's requirement that abatement of GMOs "minimize genetic contamination or other harm," Jordan said.

Jordan, who emphasized he was not advocating the passage or defeat of the measure, said the county's enforcement of the measure would be difficult because of its "undefined terms and vague terminology."

"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," Jordan said.

Jordan said the ordinance contains conflicting language on judicial remedies for violations and is not clear whether it pertains only to unincorporated areas of the county or includes cities as well.

The cost of enforcing Measure 15-119 would include the addition of a full-time code inspector, a hearings officer's time, a contractor for testing and department overhead, materials, training and other staff time.

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