GENET archive


6-Regulation: Californian GE-free struggle gets tougher

   "CropLife America and the Western Plant Health Association poured
    USD 600,000 in to the effort to defeat the Mendocino County
    initiative. This time the corporate face of the biotech industry is
    taking a less visible role and opting to let California Farm Bureau,
    and its county chapters and local farmers take up the fight."

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

TITLE:  Farmers, businesses take sides on GMOs
        Backers, opponents of county ban on modified organisms gear up for
        special election
SOURCE: The Press Democrat, USA, by Katy Hillenmeyer
DATE:   28 Jul 2004

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

Farmers, businesses take sides on GMOs
Backers, opponents of county ban on modified organisms gear up for
special election

Sonoma County businesses on both sides of the debate over genetically
modified organisms are waging a high-stakes battle to protect their
markets as a coalition of organic growers and merchants continues pushing
for a countywide ban on such products.

Whether it's wine or cheese or jam, "if it comes from Sonoma, it's got a
certain cachet - a value added," said Daniel Solnit, campaign coordinator
for GE-Free Sonoma County, which is gathering signatures to place a
proposed ban before voters. "If we become known as the area where GMOs
are being tested or planted, that's going to be reversed."

Though Sonoma County supervisors declined Tuesday to put the proposed
initiative on the November ballot, Solnit said looking forward to a 2005
special election gives ban proponents more time to cultivate public support.

But Sonoma County Farm Bureau Executive Director Lex McCorvey,
characterizing Mendocino County's adoption in March of a similar ban as a
"self-serving" campaign by organic businesses and others, said the local
initiative is splitting the agricultural industry into competing camps.

"It's unfortunate," McCorvey said. "Everyone is going to spend money on
this thing to push forward education to the public when we really should
have been working together."

Following Mendocino County's precedent-setting election, voters in Marin
and Butte counties will decide on similar initiatives in November.

According to McCorvey, backers of the Mendocino County law succeeded only
in putting constraints on fellow farmers and consumers who might benefit
from genetic engineering when they could have touted their GE-free
products without a ban.

"Farmers are always looking for ways to reduce costs," the farm bureau
chief said. "If genetic engineering could, perhaps, find a cure for
Pierce's disease or powdery mildew, that ... has the opportunity to
significantly reduce the amount of pesticides used in Sonoma County."

But Farm Bureau member Paul Kolling, president of the Sebastopol-based
organic foods company Nana Mae's, is among local businesses and
individuals who've declared support for the ban.

Kolling's company leases about 500 acres in Sebastopol, Forestville,
Guerneville, Graton, Healdsburg and elsewhere to grow organic fruits for
juices and other specialty products. He worries about genetically
engineered apple trees cross-pollinating with his.

"Genetically modified ingredients have already contaminated our food
supply, from soybeans to corn," Kolling said. "The next thing you know,
everything will be genetically modified and there won't be anything
natural anymore."

Winemaker Mike Benziger called the proposed ban a "timeout" to protect
wineries and other local food and beverage producers.

"The large corporations are pushing ahead with genetically engineered
plants and other organisms faster than we can evaluate their effect on
the environment," the winemaker of Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen said.

With mad cow disease and other food-borne illnesses increasing consumers'
awareness about dietary choices, "food purity is going to be an issue,"
Benziger added. "Sonoma County wants to make sure that we don't do
anything to jeopardize our ability to supply pure and wholesome food and
wines to our customers."

But a UC Davis agricultural economist said a ban on genetic engineering
of foods would stifle important research.

In Canada, Argentina, and other U.S. regions where genetically modified
crops are grown, "it lowers the cost of production and it lowers the
chemical load on the environment," said the university's Colin Carter.

"Suppose that a new disease hits the grape growers and, if someone has
developed a genetically modified resistant grape, it wouldn't be allowed
to be grown in Sonoma County but it could be grown elsewhere?" Carter said.

"It does threaten the future competitiveness of the agricultural industry
in Sonoma County if this sort of ban would take hold."

Solnit disputed that argument.

By pushing for the GMO ban, "we're defending farmers' choice," he said.
"Farmers have a right to grow what they want on their land without some
neighbor down the road contaminating it."

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

TITLE:  Anti-biotech movement moving statewide from Mendocino
SOURCE: Western Farm Press, USA, by Harry Cline
DATE:   28 Jul 2004

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

Anti-biotech movement moving statewide from Mendocino

A radical environmental group based in Minnesota and linked to the
destruction of student project crops several years ago on the University
of California, Davis campus has succeeded in getting initiatives to ban
genetically modified crops on the November ballots in at least four
California counties.

Efforts in at least five other counties could spawn similar initiatives
by an organization called Organic Consumers Association (OCA), based in
Little Marias, Minn. OCA spearheaded a highly emotional campaign that led
to Mendocino County voting last spring to ban biotech crops.

The campaign there, led by a semi-retired health care worker, Doug Mosel,
who moved to Mendocino County five years ago, was largely a symbolic vote
since there are no biotech crops grown in Mendocino County.

Bolstered by that win, similar ballot initiatives will be on the ballot
this fall in Butte, San Luis Obispo, Marin and Humboldt counties. It is
more then symbolic in at least two of those counties because there is
herbicide-resistant crops being grown or evaluated in Humboldt and Butte

Environmental radicals in Sonoma, Alameda, Santa Cruz, Trinity, Santa
Barbara, Placer and Napa counties backed by OCA California splinter
group, BioDemocracy Alliance, are trying to get similar initiatives on
ballots in those counties.

Statewide ban

Ryan Zinn, OCA-paid campaign coordinator for the new group, said the goal
is to ban biotech crops in California where there are already 600,000
acres of herbicide-resistant or insect-resistant corn or cotton being
grown. OCA wants the state legislature to ban biotech crops and are using
county ballots to try and force the issue in Sacramento.

Zinn was quoted in the San Jose Mercury News: "California is the nation's
largest agricultural state. If it were to decide to ban these crops, it
would have a huge impact throughout the nation."

While largely symbolic, it is no joke to California agriculture.

"This whole thing is very serious. It is a political power play by
someone who wants to control America's food supply like a third world
dictator," said Jamie Johansson, an Oroville, Calif., olive grower who is
spearheading the effort to defeat the anti-GMO initiative in Butte County.

The anti-biotech radicals cloak their campaign against such things as
insect-resistant and herbicide-resistant crops by saying biotech crops
will harm organic crops.

"There is no threat to organic farming -- that is a red herring," said
Johansson. "I have friends who are organic olive oil producers and they
are opposed to this. However, they are caught in a Catch 22 situation if
they come out in opposition. They are afraid.

"Two wineries in Mendocino County came out in opposition to the biotech
ban initiative there, and they were threatened with physical violence. An
organic grower there who opposed the measure was intimidated and
threatened until she changed her position," said the Butte County farmer.

"I used to live in Humboldt County, and I experienced first hand what
these people did to the timber industry there," he added.

"This whole anti-GMO movement in California spearheaded by the Minnesota
group is very unnerving to a lot of people," said the olive grower.

Crops destroyed

The group involved in the anti-GMO movement has been linked to the
destruction crops at the University of California, Davis several years
ago. Their target was GMO crops, but they destroyed non-biotech student
project crops.

Mosel, the semi-retired health care worker, who was the chief spokesman
for the Mendocino County initiative said that report is "absolutely

In interview with Western Farm Press, the soft spoken 61-year-old Mosel
calls himself "first and foremost a Nebraska farm boy who spent the first
20 years of his life on a farm," he said.

He admits he has no formal education in agricultural science; has not
visited a farmer growing biotech crops nor has he talked personally with
any university or other government scientist who has researched biotech crops.

"I do not count my having no formal ag education as a disadvantage. It
would be an extraordinary feat for anyone to emerge from any of our ag
school programs without a pro-biotech, pro-industrial ag bias.

"Without such a background, but with my direct experience of smaller
scale, diversified dryland farming, I believe I can see more clearly the
threats of biotech-dependent farming as well as the long-term advantages
of GE-free agricultural practices," said Mosel.

"I have talked to people who have talked to farmers growing biotech crops
and they say a lot of farmers do not want to grow biotech crops. I have
also read reports from scientists who have researched these crops, but I
have never talked with one personally," he said.

Nevertheless, Mosel said biotech crops "harm people and the environment."
He says he opposes "industrial agriculture" and calls biotechnology a
"threat to the farms of the future."

'Biotech bullies'

The Mendocino County initiatives and the ones on the ballot this fall are
cloaked as needed to protect organic growers, it is mostly an anti-
corporate campaign against what the organizers have called "biotech bullies."

CropLife America and the Western Plant Health Association poured $600,000
in to the effort to defeat the Mendocino County initiative. This time the
corporate face of the biotech industry is taking a less visible role and
opting to let California Farm Bureau, and its county chapters and local
farmers take up the fight.

However, there is a bit of disunity within the agriculture community on
the biotech issue. While Johansson said the Butte County Farm Bureau has
come out officially opposed to the biotech ban, the FB chapter in
Mendocino County was divided on the initiative there and so is the
Humboldt FB chapter.

Several Mendocino County wineries supported the Mendocino measure,
including one of the more well-known wineries in the state, Fetzer.
Fetzer has embarked on a transition to organic wine grape production in
recent years.

California Association of Winegrape Growers reportedly also is divided on
the biotech issue.

Some believe the current drive to create fear frenzy over biotechnology
is an effort by OCA and other to raise money to support itself since
biotech crops are now a permanent part of agriculture in California and
Arizona and the world and growing each year. It is unlikely that a ban
could be enforced or that the state legislature would outlaw 600,000
acres of California crops.

Last year 52 percent of the California's cotton acreage was planted to
either herbicide or insect resistant varieties. In Arizona it was 94 percent.

Nationwide, 76 percent of the cotton acreage is in biotech varieties; 45
percent of the corn acreage and 85 percent of the soybeans.

All those numbers represent increases from the year before.

There are no figures for herbicide resistant corn in California, but that
acreage has reportedly been growing significantly in recent years with
new low-input, herbicide-resistant varieties grown under minimum tillage
for silage corn for the dairy industry.

Mosel acknowledges that biotechnology is "pervasive" in cotton, corn,
soybeans and canola, but he wants to stop it at there.

He cited the reluctance of wheat farmers in the Northern Plains to
embrace herbicide-resistant wheat for fear of losing overseas markets as
an example of stopping the biotech expansion.

"There has been no new biotech crop introduced in the past four or five
years," he said. That is not true because new stacked gene cotton, corn
and soybeans are being introduced each year and new generations of
herbicide resistant and insect-resistant crops are expected within the
next few years.

Biotech popular

Thousands of farmers nationwide have embraced biotech to reduce costs
insect pests and weed control costs, only after exhaustive testing and
evaluation by several government agencies before biotech crops were
approved for commercial production.

However, the public still has doubts spawned by organizations like OCA
and that uncertainty is being exploited by environmental radicals,
according to agricultural leaders.

"This whole thing is about power and money," said one ag leader. OCA is
already canvassing the Bay area for money.

OCA claims 500,000 members and 90,000 in California. However, unlike the
Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund, most ag leaders in
California had not heard of OCA until the Mendocino initiative.

The oldest environmental group in the nation, the Sierra Club claims a
membership of 700,000. EDF says it has 400,000 members.

OCA's Web site calls itself a grassroots organization dedicated to a
three-point "Food Agenda 2000-2010:"
-- A global moratorium on genetically engineered foods and crops.
-- A phase-out of the most dangerous industrial agriculture and factory
farming practices.
-- The conversion of American agriculture to at least 30 percent organic
by the year 2010.

The Organic Consumers Association claims to be a non-profit organization.
It lists no paid staff on its Web site, but lists the following as
advisory board members:
-- Maude Barlow-Council of Canadians (Canada).
-- Jay Feldman-National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides (D.C.).
-- Jean Halloran-Consumers Union (N.Y.).
-- Tim Hermach-Native Forest Council (Ore.).
-- Ellen Hickey-Pesticide Action Network (Calif.).
-- Julia Butterfly Hill-Author & Forest Activist (Calif.).
-- Annie Hoy-Ashland Community Food Store (Ore.).
-- Mika Iba-Network for Safe & Secure Food & Environment (Japan).
-- Pat Kerrigan-Youth and Farm Market (Minn.).
-- John Kinsman-Family Farm Defenders (Wis.).
-- Al Krebs-Agribusiness Examiner (Wash.).
-- Bruce Krug-Dairy Farmer (N.Y.).
-- Frances Moore Lappe Howard Lyman-EarthSave (Va.).
-- Charles Margulis-Greenpeace (Md.).
-- Victor Menotti-International Forum on Globalization (Calif.).
-- Robyn Seydel-La Montanita Co-op (N.M.).
-- Vandana Shiva (Research Foundation for Science, Technology, & Natural
Resource Policy (India).
-- John Stauber-Center for Media and Democracy & Author (Wis.).

There is one organic farmer OCA need not attempt to recruit: Fresno
County farmer Don Cameron, who has been growing organic and conventional
crops for several years.

Cameron, chairman of the California Tomato Growers Association and
chairman of California Planting Cotton Seed Distributors, has produced
organic cotton, tomatoes and lettuce along with conventional crops,
including herbicide-resistant cotton, on his farm.

Co-exist well

"Organic and conventional co-exist now without contamination and
problems. We have done it for several years," said Cameron.

That is what Cameron offered up on a San Francisco radio talk show
recently that featured backers of the Mendocino anti-biotech initiative.

"They were trying to tell me I was contaminating my organic cotton. When
I told them cotton was self-pollinating, they had nothing to say. It was
obvious they had no scientific background on the issue," he said.

Cameron said the anti-biotech movement is operating on emotions and very
little factual information.

"Biotech represents the future of farming and these people want to take
it away," he said.

"They have no idea that biotech is not only a money-saving issue for
farmers, but because of it we are producing a safer food supply than ever
before. We need this technology to stay in business and compete
worldwide," said Cameron.

"We have reduced the use of herbicides; cut down on dust and there is
less diesel exhaust because we cultivate less. This organic group is
missing the boat," he said.

Kings County, Calif., producer Michael Boyette called into the same
program and all he got was silence after he tried to detail the benefits
of biotech cotton.

"These people want to attack corporations and could not care less about
organic production or the science and regulation of biotechnology," he said.

'Cheaper, safer'

"Technology is bring cheaper and safer food to Americans -- some say safer
than every before," he said.

The challenge in confronting this anti-biotech movement is convincing the
majority of votes that biotech is safe, according to Boyette.

"I think they will listen, but we have got to get the message out," he said.

Butte County is the heart of California rice country and is likely to be
the pivotal county that could stem the anti-biotech tide.

The rice industry has been embroiled internally with the biotech issue.
Considerable California rice is shipped to Japan, which so far has banned
GMO-rice. This prompted the rice industry to recently oppose rice being
planted in California that was genetically modified to produce
pharmaceuticals. This rice was to be planted in Southern California, far
from the rice producing area of Sacramento Valley. Nevertheless, it was
opposed in fear of losing overseas markets.

However, this proposed GMO ban in Butte County hits closer to home. If
passed, Johansson said it would hamper the research work at the Rice
Experiment Station in Biggs, Calif., in Butte County.

"I am hopeful that a lot of the rice groups that opposed the rice
pharmaceutical plantings will join our side in opposing the Butte County
initiative," he said. "We think they will."

The California Cattlemen's Association has voted to oppose the Butte
County ban, according to Johansson.

Legislative battle

The anti-GMO initiatives are expected to attract widespread news
coverage, but court challenges are expected if they pass. The real battle
will likely come in the State Legislature where agricultural groups
believe they can void local anti-GMO initiatives. They also believe that
they can turn back any attempt to legislatively ban biotech crops statewide.

USDA and the Food and Drug Administration evaluate and approve all
biotech crops in the U.S., and agriculturists believe that is where the
regulation should remain. Biotech crops have probably been the most
thoroughly evaluated technology every introduced into American agriculture.

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

TITLE:  GE Free to present film
SOURCE: Paradise Post, USA, by Trevor Warner
DATE:   27 Jul 2004

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

GE Free to present film

The Citizens for a GE Free Butte County will be presenting, "The Future
of Food," Thursday at the Chico branch of the Butte County Library.

The film documents the continuing industrialization of the world's food
supply and will focus on the subject of genetically engineering food crops.

The film was made by Deborah Coons Garcia, wife of the late Jerry Garcia,
'60s icon and guitar player for the Grateful Dead.

Peter Laughton of the Citizens for a GE free Butte said the film is one
of the ways the grassroots group is trying to educate people about the
potential hazards of genetically engineered food.

"When we were doing the petition drive, a lot of people would say they
heard of genetic engineering but didn't know much about it and would sign
the petition until they knew more," he said. "So this is one way we're
educating people about the issue."

He said the group presented a film on Percy Schmeiser earlier this month
and plans to show it again on Aug. 8, and several other times in the
following months.

Schmeiser is a Canadian farmer who was sued by biotech giant Monsanto
after the company discovered some of its patented seed in Schmeiser's field.

Schmeiser said he doesn't grow biotech food and didn't know Monsanto's
genetic material got into his field. He said it occurred by naturally
occurring drift.

However, Monsanto's patent allowed for the lawsuit and Schmeiser said he
is spending his life's fortune fighting the company.

Schmeiser paid a visit to Chico to talk about his plight in January.

In March, Mendocino County became the first county in the nation to ban
genetically engineered crops and animals.

Taking their cue from Schmeiser's visit and Mendocino's vote, the
Citizens for a GE Free Butte County formed and started a petition drive
to put a similar measure before the voters on the November ballot.

In about six weeks, petitions gatherers collected about 10,000 signatures
in support of the measure.

The group only needed 6,200 to put the ballot on the initiative and over
7,000 were determined by the county clerk's office to be valid.

Proponents of the ban say genetically engineered foods could cause health
problems, have not had proper testing for human consumption, will hurt
the county's agricultural profit margin and take away a farmer's right to
grow and eat food free of biotechnology.

Opponents say the ban will decrease crop yields and profits, increase the
use of chemical sprays, take away a potentially beneficial farming tool
and take away a farmer's right to grow the kind of crops he chooses.

The Butte County Board of Supervisors heard the issue earlier this month
and decided not to adopt the ban into law, which put the ban initiative
on the ballot.

According to the county, the initiative's language is vague and
implementation would create another unfunded mandate the county has to
deal with.

The ban could also put the county's rice experimentation station out of
business and ban Calrose rice, which has been grown in the county for
about 60 years, county officials said.

However, supporters of the ban say it would protect their farms from the
same kind of seed drift that sparked the Schmeiser vs. Monsanto case.

Rice grower Bryce Lundberg and organic winemaker Phil LaRocca said a ban
would protect their crops and maintain the same quality their customers
have come to expect from them.

The 90-minute movie will be shown on Thursday, July 29, at 7:00 p.m. at
the Butte County Library located at 1108 Sherman Ave. There will be no
charge for admission.


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(*)
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