PSU gets involved with Gov. Kitzhaber’s GMO Legislative Task Force

In April, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber announced his appointed 13-member task force to create a report on genetically modified organisms. This report may possibly come into play in legislation in 2015.

The task force is compiled of a variety of different agriculture leaders from around Oregon who will each bring their own viewpoints to the meetings.

Portland State’s Jennifer Allen, director of the Institute for Sustainable Solutions, is acting as co-convener for this task force alongside Daniel Arp, Oregon State University’s dean of agricultural sciences. Another PSU affiliate, the Oregon Consensus from the Hatfield School of Government, will serve as the facilitator for this task force led by Peter Harkema and Jesse Conover, project managers.
The role of the co-conveners and facilitator is simply to provide a reflection of the task force members’ perspectives on GMO-related issues in the most unbiased way possible.

As information is gathered throughout these meetings, Allen talked more about the overarching purpose of this project.

“The purpose of this group is really to help us comprehend and describe the whole landscape of issues related to genetic engineering and agriculture,” Allen said. “It’s not intended [for us] as a group to come up with any recommendations.”

Harkema explained the role of Oregon Consensus as facilitator.
“In our role [we’re] the neutral forum for the conversation and we’re facilitating the conversation,” Harkema said. “We’re responsible for drafting the report that will summarize the work of the task force and be provided for the governor.”

Allen said that she was honored to be chosen as co-convener.

“They wanted someone who would be respected by the people on the task force, as well as someone who would help make sure the process was as constructive as possible.”

The role of the task force members is to provide their viewpoints on the issues, which are then recorded in an unbiased manner by the co-conveners and compiled into the final report.

Thus far, the team has had two meetings—one organizational meeting in order to solidify future meeting dates, and the second was a discussion involving environmental issues, which included soils, chemicals, pest management, and so on.

The upcoming meetings will cover four more topics. These include economic and social issues, consumer and grower information and choice (labeling, promotion, etc.), coexistence (between GM foods and non-GM foods in store), and existing legal and policy issues.
Once these meetings are finished, the report will be kept and potentially used for informational purposes in future legislative sessions.

“The task force will be finished in approximately November,” Harkema said. “The draft report will later be available for public comment. Once it is finalized it will go to the governor. Our hope and expectation is that the report will be a useful tool in legislation.”