Political action committees facing off over a ballot measure to ban genetically modified crops in Jackson County have raised more than $900,000, with the bulk of that money trying to defeat the measure that goes before voters in May.
Good Neighbor Farmers, which opposes Measure 15-119 and a similar ballot measure under consideration in Josephine County, had raised $799,835 as of Friday, according to campaign financial information reported to the Secretary of State's Office.
Of that amount, $464,500 came from major producers of herbicides and genetically modified crops, according to the Secretary of State's website. Among them are Bayer CropScience, BASF Plant Science, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer, Monsanto Co., Syngenta Crop Protection and the National Corngrowers Association. The largest donation — $183,294 — came from Monsanto.
Syngenta leases land in both Jackson and Josephine counties to produce seed for sugar beets genetically modified to withstand herbicides.
Ian Tolleson, spokesman for Good Neighbor Farmers, said its campaign will focus on telling voters a GMO ban would be too expensive to enforce, meaning possible cuts to public services.
"We're also concerned about litigation to the farmer," Tolleson said.
Our Family Farms, which supports the ban, had raised $107,411 as of Friday, with $55,000 of that coming from another ban-supporting group, GMO Free Jackson County. GMO Free Jackson County had collected $59,000.
Organic farmers put the measures to the voters because they are afraid that wind-blown pollen from Syngenta plots will contaminate their crops.
"It's obvious the opponents are flooding money into our county, just basically trying to scare people and lead them with misinformation," said Elise Higley, campaign manager and director of Our Family Farms.
Higley said supporters of Measure 15-119 have been trying to get their message out, too, giving presentations to granges, interested citizens, neighborhood associations and garden clubs.
"We really are the people who work and farm here. It's just really empowering us to get out on the streets and educate people," Higley said.
Both sides said they have been in talks to participate in a public debate. Dates and times are still being worked out. "Hopefully that will come to fruition," Tolleson said.