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6-Regulation: Anti-biotech ballot initiatives advance in Californiacounties

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TITLE:  Anti-biotech ballot initiatives advance in California counties
SOURCE: Food Chemical News, USA, by Stephen Clapp
DATE:   12 Jul 2004

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Anti-biotech ballot initiatives advance in California counties

Inspired by the success of an anti-biotech ballot initiative in Mendocino
County last winter, green groups in other California counties are
developing similar initiatives in connection with the national elections
in November (see FCN March 8, Page 7).

A measure banning bioengineered crops in Humboldt County has qualified
for the November ballot. County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams told
the Eureka Times-Standard that checks of a random sample of 500
signatures out of nearly 7,000 showed proponents had easily qualified for
the ballot. The county board of supervisors is scheduled to formally
place the measure on the November ballot at its July 13 meeting.

A coalition of anti-biotech activists calling itself the Humboldt Green
Genes said it was inspired by the success of the Mendocino measure. "This
initiative will protect local farms from cross-pollen contamination by
genetically modified crops and create a safe haven for crops grown from
traditional seed strains," Humboldt Green Genes co-chair Mike Gann said
in a statement.

Campaign manager Jim Ferguson said organizers have scheduled a campaign
kick-off later this week. "So much of our energy was just focused on
getting the signatures," Ferguson told the newspaper. "Now we switch into
an entirely different mode."

Last week anti-biotech forces held a two-day conference in Sonoma County
to compare notes on their ballot initiatives. Other counties represented
at the meeting included Alameda, Butte, Humboldt, Marin and San Luis
Obispo. "We want to create a safe haven here on the Redwood Coast and
potentially attract other growers seeking a GMO-free environment," Gann
told Food Chemical News.

Lou Ann Choss, a massage therapist in the Butte County community of
Paradise, told the Sacramento Bee last month that the county had
certified nearly 8,000 signatures for a November ballot measure.

Butte is a leading rice producing county in California. The ballot
initiative there was triggered by the unsuccessful efforts of Sacramento-
based Ventria Bioscience to undertake commercial production of plant-made
pharmaceuticals using rice as a platform (see FCN April 19, Page 9).

The Butte County group's Web site ( says, "GMO
contamination would make our rice, almond, walnut and other farm products
unmarketable to Europe, Japan and other world markets, jeopardizing the
county's multimillion-dollar export business." The group added that
pollen drift could contaminate local farms and backyard vegetable gardens.

"This isn't just a bunch of granola-eaters who want to stop scientific
research," Choss told the Bee. "It's a broader scope across all lines in
the farming community, organic as well as conventional."

Lisa Dry, spokeswoman for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, told
FCN that farmers should be able to decide whether or not to plant biotech
crops. "The crops are safe to plant and safe to eat. It's a matter of the
farmer's choice, and it shouldn't be taken away," she said.

Dry said BIO and its industry allies hadn't decided on any legal or
legislative measures to take against the biotech bans, adding, "It's up
to the local farm bureau or other group to address what's happening in
their own backyard."


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