GENET archive


6-Regulation: Discussions on GE free zones in California

                                 PART I
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  More California Counties to Vote on Banning Genetically Engineered
SOURCE: Wine Spectator, USA, by Lynn Alley,1145,2517,00.html
DATE:   28 Jun 2004 

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More California Counties to Vote on Banning Genetically Engineered Crops

March, Mendocino County made national headlines when its residents voted
to ban the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), becoming the
first county in the nation to prohibit genetically engineered livestock
and produce.

 Since then, other counties in Northern California and the Central Coast
have been moving in that direction. Activist groups in Butte, Humboldt,
Marin and San Luis Obispo (home to the Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande and
Paso Robles appellations) counties have all gathered the requisite number
of signatures to place GMO-ban initiatives on their local November ballots.

In Alameda County, which is home to the Livermore Valley appellation, an
anti-GMO group is trying to get the board of supervisors to voluntarily
put an initiative on the November ballot. "Should that fail, then we'll
begin the process of gathering signatures," said Mitch Triplett,
spokesman for GE-Free Alameda County.

But perhaps the most important addition to the growing list, at least for
wine lovers, is that of Sonoma County, which is one of the state's prime
wine regions and where wine grapes are the No. 1 agricultural commodity.

On Monday, a coalition of environmentalists and organic farmers calling
themselves "GE-Free Sonoma" said they will seek a ballot measure to
prohibit the propagation, cultivation, raising, growing, sale or
distribution of genetically modified plants, livestock and fish in the county.

"This is not an environmentalists versus farmers initiative," said David
Henson, one of the authors of the Sonoma measure and head of the
Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, which promotes sustainable and
organic agriculture. "This is farmers and environmentalists coming
together to prevent genetic contamination of our farms and ecosystem."

Henson said the proposed initiative does not cover the sale of foods
containing GMOs, nor does it prohibit "agricultural or medical research
under properly controlled conditions."

The initiative contains an escape clause that would allow the board,
through a unanimous vote, to exempt a commodity or item from the law. "If
we find a cure for Pierce's disease, for instance, we can exempt that
from the law," Henson said, referring to a fatal vine malady that poses a
threat to the state's wine industry.

To allows the board to reevaluate its stance based on new scientific
findings, the measure also contains a "sunset clause" that ends the legal
enforceability of the ordinance after 10 years, Henson said. At that
time, the supervisors may elect to extend the ordinance another 10 years
by a majority vote.

GE-Free Sonoma claims bioengineered organisms have not been sufficiently
studied and may threaten human health, natural biodiversity and markets
abroad for farm products.

Proponents of GMOs, including CropLife America, an industry group that
represents biotech companies such as Monsanto and DuPont, have said
genetic modifications could help prevent disease and pests from plaguing
crops and vineyards.

"Farmers should be able to choose whatever tools best meet their growing
needs and practices," said Lisa Dry, a spokeswoman for the Biotechnology
Industry Organization (BIO), an advocacy group.

The Sonoma County Farm Bureau, a nongovernmental organization
representing Sonoma farmers, has not decided what side it will take in
the debate, as its board of directors has not yet looked over the
initiative. "Certainly we want the [bio]technology to be safe," said
executive director Lex McCorvey. "But then there are a lot of things
we've done in the past that are not safe, but we move on."

                                 PART II
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Genetic crop ban advocates claim 8,000 signatures
SOURCE: Eureka Times-Standard, USA,1413,127~2896~2230105,00.html#
DATE:   23 Jun 2004 

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Genetic crop ban advocates claim 8,000 signatures

EUREKA -- Supporters of a Humboldt County ban on genetically altered
crops will gather at the county Elections Office today. A local group
called Humboldt Green Genes are expected to drop off about 8,000
signatures, well more than the roughly 4,400 signatures from registered
county voters needed to qualify for the November ballot. Last November,
Mendocino County became the first county in the nation to pass a measure
banning genetically modified crops. The local effort was inspired by the
success of the Mendocino measure. Behind the local effort are organic
farmers Mike Gann and Angela Flynn and Martha Devine, a retired soy foods
businesswoman and active member of the Humboldt County Green Party.
Strong support has also come from the North Coast Co-op. Nearly 100
percent of the co-op's membership voted in support of the ban.


                                  PART III
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Ag dean questions genetically modified crop concerns
SOURCE: Chico Enterprise Record, USA, by Heather Hacking,1674,135%257E25088%257
DATE:   27 Jun 2004 

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Ag dean questions genetically modified crop concerns

The dean of agriculture at Chico State University said the debate over
whether Butte County should ban genetically modified crops will be lively
and he expects people to step forward soon to talk about the pros and cons.

The University Farm currently grows genetically modified corn, Charley
Crabb said. The crop isn't raised for research, but is a way to expose
students to emerging technologies.

He said the technology needs to be dealt with carefully, but there are
many applications where it could benefit farmers and consumers.

For example, Pierce's disease is a problem in the grape industry,
especially in areas that are infested with the glassy winged
sharpshooter, a pest that spreads the disease. If root stock could be
genetically modified to be resistant to Pierce's disease, it could be
grafted with grape vines.

Genetic engineering is the splicing of genes into the DNA of a different
organism. Scientists have found genes that are resistant to herbicides,
for example, and placed them into crops such as corn, soy and canola.
That way the crop can be sprayed with herbicides such as Roundup and the
crop won't die but competing weeds will.

Proponents on a ban on genetically engineered crops say it's unsafe to
grow them because there hasn't been enough study as to whether they are
safe for the environment and to be consumed.

Crabb said genetically engineered crops can allow crops to be grown with
fewer pesticides and less diesel fuel.

"Potential for no-till farming becomes simpler," he said.

Literature in the press packet from Citizens for GE-Free Butte counter
that argument. Citing an article in EarthSave Magazine, the group says
plants will develop resistance to genetically altered organisms, plus it
upsets the balance of natural enemies to pests that plague plants.

Crabb said farmers already battle with resistance on conventional crops.

Also, there are concerns that GE crops will become dominant and effect
crops grown nearby, polluting the gene pool, so to speak.

Crabb said he thinks this issue is addressable.

Currently, the trend is toward use of pheromone disrupters. Pheromones
are a chemical pests emit to attract a mate. When the pheromones are
disrupted, the pests can't find one another. But Crabb said there are
multiple ways insects attract one another.

"As we increase pheromone use, those insects will use secondary cues."

"These animals have millions of years of evolution to have the tools for

"I do believe we have the regulatory process to make sure we don't make
those errors," he said.

"We've been growing GMO (genetically modified organisms) for quite a while."

He said there have been reports that non-engineered corn in Mexico had
been contaminated, but later those studies were refuted.

"Absolutely there are some issues we need to understand fully, but it's
important to understand that zero risk is not something that is
possible," the dean said.

Altering of genes has gone on for centuries, as plant breeders come up
with crops that have more desirable qualities. Some of those breeding
processes have caused problems, he said, but those problems have been
overcome, Crabb said.

"The idea that nature is benign is not a reasonable assumption. We don't
need to do things that put us at further risk, but we have to understand
where the risk exists," he said.

Regarding GE crops, Crabb said the United States Department of
Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration are both involved with
GE crops and have kept crops off the market when deemed inappropriate.

Some GMO work was done inserting genetics associated with peanuts into
other crops. Crabb said government agencies recognized this could create
problems for people with severe allergies to peanuts, and the crops were
not pursued.

"The other piece of this that needs to be considered is this technology
is advancing very quickly; from some people's view too quickly," he
continued. "I'm convinced we have not seen the full potential of this
technology in terms of being able to create crops that will provide more
health benefits to the general public, primarily in the area of
nutrition, being able to meet the nutritional needs of the population
more efficiently."

He said crops can be grown that have a greater range of vitamins. Or,
foods that are high in antioxidants can be grown to help people better
prevent cancer. Foods that cause cancer could also be altered, he said.

Opponents of GE crops believe huge corporations are patenting new DNA
combinations for profit and are creating a monoculture where only GE
plants can be grown, forcing farmers to pay the corporations for the
right to grow them.

Crabb said he believes there are ways to keep non-GE plants separate from
a predominantly GE industry. The organic industry is also fearful that GE
crops will make it more difficult for them to grow certified organic foods.

"There are producers growing certified organic crops along with
conventional crops," Crabb said. "They do it by very carefully
maintaining records, by religiously stepping through the process of
sanitation," in growing and processing.

"I don't think this is as big an issue as it's laid out to be. The ag
community has the capability of managing this.

"For people who want to know they are eating GMO-free food, the market
will make that happen."

Another argument against GE foods is that large corporations want to
profit by selling farmers seed each year. In the case of Roundup-
resistant crops, the corporations also profit by selling farmers the
chemical treatment.

Crabb said approximately 80 percent of soy beans and 60 percent of corn
grown in the United States are genetically modified.

"I cannot believe that many people in agriculture would be susceptible to
some sort of scam. We have to give the agricultural community,
particularly in California, some credit for being very shrewd, very
careful business people."

Arguments against GMOs also include the fact that Europe has been
resistant to them. Thus, widespread use of GMOs could harm trade with Europe.

Crabb said Europe has heightened concern partly because of the mad cow
disease problems. Europeans also don't have as much trust in their
governments, he said. Further, Europeans have a much closer relationship
with their food and most things on people's tables are grown much closer
to home.

Crabb also blamed trade relations that try to protect a "relatively
inefficient agriculture system."

"One way the European Union can protect their growers is by putting up
trade barriers. Some of the issues of GMOs have been trade issues," he said.

Yet, Crabb said GMO animal feed in Europe is used because they can't
afford to feed their animals without importing soy bean meal.

Recently Europe approved GMO sweet corn for sale and 365 crops are "in
the queue" to be approved if labeled.

Proponents for a ban on GE foods believe labeling should also be required
in the United State, but it is not.

Crabb said he envisions a niche market for labeled GE-free foods, like
the certified organic program.

But opponents to GE-food say its virtually impossible to be able to
certify foods are not contaminated by dominant GE-seed, because many
crops such as soy and corn have already been mixed with GE crops.

Crabb said he doesn't see that issue as as big of a deal as some in the
organic industry claim.

"They will figure out a way to do that." He said the same issues already
exist for organic farmers who farm nearby farmers who use pesticides and
herbicides on commercial crops.

"I think we need to move very cautiously but we need to rely on science,
not on a hysteria that seems to spin around this at times."


Opponents of genetic engineering in Butte County have submitted enough
signatures to put a ban on genetically modified crops on the November
ballot unless the Board of Supervisors approves a ban. It is to take up
the issue in July. Such a ban is in place in Mendocino County and others
are pending in Humboldt and San Luis Obispo counties as well.

                                  PART IV
-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Genetic engineering has too many unknowns, opponents say
SOURCE: Chico Enterprise Record, USA, by Heather Hacking,1674,135%257E25088%257E
DATE:   28 Jun 2004 

------------------- archive: -------------------

Genetic engineering has too many unknowns, opponents say

Supporters of a ban on genetically modified crops and animals believe
there are too many risks of unalterably corrupting the gene pool by
altering plants and animals that have evolved and been bread for millions
of years.

More studies are needed to make sure the new foods are safe, will not
harm humans or harm the environment, they say

Locally, the group Citizens for GE-Free Butte have collected enough
signatures to put the matter to the voters.

Organizer Susan Sullivan said the grassroots effort was inspired after
the visit by Canadian Farmer Percy Schmeiser, who lost a court battle
with Monsanto, a corporation that make genetically engineered (GE) crops
and farm chemicals.

Literature circulated by those advocating the GE ban warns of GE crops
cross pollinating with other plants to create superweeds that could
require increased herbicide use in the future.

Most of the GE crops that are grown are resistant to herbicides. Thus,
when herbicides are applied, the GE crop survives but the weeds are wiped out.

But if weeds become resistant as well, farmers will have a tougher time
controlling them.

Those organizing the ban of genetically modified foods worry that there
is no way for the industry to control them and keep GE plants from
polluting other non GE-fields, including organic farms.

One form of GE crops is Bt crops. Bacillus thuringiensis Bt is a natural
bacteria toxic to many crop pests. It's often used in organic farming.

Scientists have created plants that produce the Bt toxicant. But anti-GE
advocates say the toxicant can also affect nontargeted pests. Not enough
study has been done to see how these GE crops could affect the ecosystem
or beneficial insects that naturally reduce pests, or birds that feed on
insects, proponents of a GE ban said.

Then there is the risk that pests could become resistant to Bt, losing
the ability to treat crops with it when there is infestation.

Bt crops are planted in a monoculture, where all of the crops are the
same genetically modified variety. That puts even more pressure on pests
to develop resistance. Already tests are showing resistance to Bt, the
ban advocates said.

The Food Safety Review of Spring 2002 refutes the argument that GE crops
will decrease the amount of pesticides used. The article states that in
1999 a variety of potato engineered to resist the Colorado potato beetle
controlled the beetle but that led the way for aphids to attack the crops.

Debris from harvest and pollination can put toxicants in the soil, which
can harm insects in the soil that help with decomposition and aeration,
their literature states.

GE crops that are resistant to herbicide use make the crops dependent
upon chemicals, which can lead to cross-pollination and herbicide-
tolerant weeds, the article continues, making herbicides less effective.
This could lead to the need for even harsher chemical use.

Californians for GE-Free Agriculture argue that farmers should be
concerned about GE crops because they could lose key export markets in
countries that do not want GE foods, such as Europe and France.

The foods could also be a threat to consumers' health because the foods
are new and it is unknown who might be allergic. The group advocates more
testing. One study has shown immune system dysfunction, stomach lesion
and allergen sensitivity when rates were fed genetically engineered
foods, the group said.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
Kleine Wiese 6
D - 38116 Braunschweig

P: +49-531-5168746
F: +49-531-5168747
M: +49-162-1054755
E: coordination(*)
W: <>

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