A federal judge on Friday allowed a ban on cultivation of genetically modified crops in Oregon's Jackson county to stand after two alfalfa farms requested the ban be blocked.
The federal judge's decision could allow the ban, which was passed in May of last year, to take full effect later this year. It stipulated that perennial crops, like alfalfa, could be harvested in 2014 but needed to be removed within 12 months. Another county, Josephine, passed a similar measure.
The Associated Press reports that U.S. Magistrate Judge Mark Clarke made the decision on the grounds that Jackson's ban is not nullified by an existing right to farm law, which prohibits trespassing and the like, but does not protects against "activities that harm commercial agriculture."
Cited in the report, the Medford Mail Tribune notes that the farmers, Bruce Schulz of Gold Hill and James and Marilyn Frink of Sams Valley, argued that the GMO cultivation ban would cause undue financial hardship and violated constitutional rights.
In his ruling, Clarke wrote that the decision does not answer complex questions about food safety and scarcity on a global level, but does address claims regarding the right to farm law in Oregon, the Tribune report said.
Anti-GMO group Our Family Farms Coalition declared the group had "won" on its website in a statement dated May 29, noting "We have DEFEATED the first major stage of the Monsanto-backed legal challenge that attempted to overturn our Jackson County ban on genetically engineered crops."
"This is a huge win for family farmers threatened by GMO contamination and a win for everyone who cares about the future of our food supply!"
According to the Tribune's report, an Our Family Farms Coalition spokesman said appeals are possible as Clarke will decide if the alfalfa famers have faced "undue deprivation of property" as a result of the ban.
In addition to the cultivation bans, Oregon last year also entertained a GMO labeling ballot measure, which was very narrowly defeated, leaving GMO labeling supporters to concede more than a month after the November elections.