GENET archive


9-Misc: Lack of GE food labelling rules supports Californianmovement to ban GMOs

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

TITLE:  California Movement to Ban Modified Crops Stems From Industry's
        Refusal to Inform The Public
SOURCE: PR Week US, by Paul Holmes
        sent by AgBioView, USA
DATE:   30 Aug 2004 

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California Movement to Ban Modified Crops Stems From Industry's Refusal
to Inform The Public

Agricultural interests in California are finally waking up to a potential
threat to their ability to do business in the state - a threat largely of
their own making. Two California counties have already passed measures
banning genetically modified crops, citing their desire to protect
organic crops from contamination, and the issue will be on the ballot in
four additional counties this November. Agricultural interests are
concerned about any regulation that tells them what they can and can't
grow, while others worry that a biotech ban will simply confirm
preconceptions about an anti-tech, anti-business bias in California. So
groups like the California Cattlemen's Association, the California Rice
Commission, and the National Farm Bureau are mobilizing against the

The attempt to outlaw genetically modified crops at the local level is
bad science and bad policy. It's bad science because much evidence shows
that fears about modified crops are misguided. In reality, the scientific
consensus on biotech is as broad as the scientific consensus on evolution
or global climate change.

(Yes, I know that forces suspicious of science still deny the existence
of both, which is why we need a bipartisan push to promote the idea that
empirical data should trump dogma in the policy arena.)

It's bad policy for both pragmatic and humanitarian reasons.
Pragmatically, if such crops do have any harmful consequences, they are
unlikely to respect county borders. On the humanitarian front, opponents
of genetically modified foods have put their own narrow, anti-corporate
interests ahead of the rather more pressing interests of starving people
the world over.

But it's also a natural consequence of the biotech industry's refusal -
in which the agricultural community has been complicit - to address
worries about this new technology. The industry has had more than a
decade to educate the public about these crops. Instead, it has acted as
if earning the acceptance of the scientific and political elite was
sufficient, that wider consumer concerns could be ignored or overridden.

That was the attitude that got Monsanto and other biotech companies into
trouble in Europe, where popular protests undermined government support
for the technology. Now it's creating a problem in California, where
local councils are stepping in to fill the regulatory void left by
federal authorities, and environmental activists have filled the
information vacuum created by industry reticence.

The industry has even opposed suggestions that biotech foods should be
labeled - a measure that would begin to destigmatize the technology - to
counter charges that it has been introduced into the food supply by
stealth. If biotech and agriculture companies want people to make
sensible choices, they'll have to trust them with more information.

 - Paul Holmes has spent the past 17 years writing about the PR business
for publications including PRWeek, Inside PR, and Reputation Management.
He is currently president of The Holmes Group and editor of

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

TITLE:  A voice for agriculture
SOURCE: San Luis Obispo Tribune, USA, by Leslie E. Stevens
DATE:   1 Sep 2004 

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A voice for agriculture
SLO County Farm Bureau director speaks out for growers, ranchers as winds
of change blow through the fields

For more than two years, Jackie Crabb, executive director of the San Luis
Obispo County Farm Bureau, has been in charge of the county's largest and
oldest ag membership organization.

In that time, the Farm Bureau has been buffeted by several changes in the
agricultural community.

The bureau lost its long-term tenant when Farm Supply moved to its new
headquarters on Tank Farm Road in July, and mounting urban pressures and
new technologies have brought new restrictions and increased scrutiny on
the activities of the county's farmers and ranchers.

Crabb also is at the forefront of the local agricultural community's
fight against a proposed ordinance to ban genetically modified crops from
being grown in San Luis Obispo County.

Recently, she spoke with The Tribune about the Farm Bureau's views on
genetically modified crops, urban impacts on farming, private property
rights and plans to lease its neighboring property.

Why does the Farm Bureau oppose Measure Q, the initiative to ban growing
genetically modified crops in this county?

Every major ag organization in this county opposes this initiative. Both
the United Nations and the National Academy of Sciences have issued two
new reports saying that GM crops do not pose more health risks than
traditionally grown crops. All three federal agencies -- the USDA, FDA
and EPA (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Drug Administration and
the Environmental Protection Agency) -- reinforce allowing them to be
marketed. We have been eating GM foods for about 10 years now. Almost all
health and ag organizations worldwide say it is safe.

The other thing is that a county ban is not the way to regulate anything.
(Under the ban) you can't grow a GM vegetable in San Luis Obispo County,
yet neighboring counties can grow it and bring it in and sell it here. GM
crops are federally regulated just like traditionally grown crops. A
local ban is just not workable.

The local biotech folks also are really concerned. From their
perspective, the initiative will impact them, and county counsel agreed.
It also sends a message that we are a county that is not biotech friendly.

What about support for the ban by some of the county's organic growers
who are worried that drift from nearby GM crops could contaminate their

Only about 1 percent of crops in the county are grown organically. Those
growers are bound by their certification not to grow GM crops.

You create buffer zones with your neighbors that depend on distance,
times you grow and when the crops pollinate. Crop co-existence is nothing
new, whether you are an organic grower or you are growing a pure brand of
seed. We feel we can create effective buffer regulations if those crops
ever come to our county. It is something we have been successfully doing
for some time.

The ag community was disappointed they were not approached to create a
collaboration to fashion guidelines for growing GM crops. We do not want
to see organic farms destroyed, but if the technology is there, you are
taking away other growers' rights with this ban who may want to use this
technology. We look at these things on a case-by-case basis, the same as
we do with property rights issues.

What do you consider the biggest challenge to agriculture continuing in
this county? In listening to ag people, the same issues keep coming up.
They are stewards of the land. They depend on our natural resources --
land, water and air. That has not changed. But as this community becomes
more urban, that puts pressure on agriculture. Now we compete for limited
resources -- prime ag land and limited water.

If that's the case, why doesn't the ag community support conservation
measures, such as the 2000 Save Open Space and Agricultural Resources
(SOAR) initiative, designed to prevent ag land being converted to
development? The issue is balance. There are property rights also. If as
a grower, you find yourself surrounded by urban development, it restricts
the ways you can farm. Considerations like dust, odors and noise
generated by farming pit your rights against your urban neighbors. That
is why we have the "Right to Farm Ordinance."

In agriculture we have over-regulation and restrictions that make it very
difficult for growers and ranchers to make a living. If it becomes so
hard on the grower that he can't afford to continue farming, he should
have the right to do with his property as he needs to. If he wants to
look at conservation easements as an option, he has that choice. If that
is so difficult that he needs to sell his land, that is his right also.

What should be done to prevent ag/urban conflicts? We want to become more
proactive so we don't find farmers and ranchers in this situation. Taxes,
regulations and restrictions -- those are the things we have to battle
constantly. They also can lead to lawsuits with things like the
Endangered Species Act -- we have several of those species in our county.
Often, it winds up in the courtroom.

We have outreach programs like Ag in the Classroom where we focus on
educating students about agriculture. We can expand out into the
community with numerous teams to help people learn about agriculture.
Also the Farm Bureau Women hold ag awareness tours every spring where
they take busloads of people to various ag sites around the county to
help them see and understand what we do.

Where do you stand on the controversy over ag land preservation and the
proposed Marketplace development off Madonna Road? That is a good example
of the property rights issue. That land is surrounded by a freeway, a
mall, housing and car dealerships. That is what we want to try to keep
from happening. We have not taken a specific stand on that issue. You
cannot compare that situation to someone in a different location.

The Hearst Ranch is another good example. People want to keep it in ag,
but they are putting restrictions on what they can do like not allowing
wine grapes. They want to restrict what farmers can grow. As the
community grows, ag can grow with it, but you need balance.

What do you plan to do with the 3-acre property adjoining Farm Bureau
that was vacated by Farm Supply in July when they moved to their new
building down the street? We are looking for new tenants and are in
negotiations right now. Farm Supply has been there for at least 20 years,
so it will be a transition for us. They were the perfect tenants -- Jim
(Brabeck) and his staff took care of everything.

The warehouse is attracting the most people and the location is also
ideal. We are on county land. The first thing people ask is, 'Can we buy
it?' That is not in our future plan. We are not developers or risk
takers. We are very prudent on the steps we take with our members'
assets. We have looked at all different scenarios and leasing the
property out is the best solution for us right now. Farm Bureau has no
plans to move from San Luis Obispo -- the government seat and the
Agriculture Commissioner's offices are both here.

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

TITLE:  Stallman: Biotech An Essential Tool For Farmers
SOURCE: American Farm Bureau, USA
DATE:   23 Aug 2004 

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Stallman: Biotech An Essential Tool For Farmers

CHICO, Calif., Aug. 23, 2004 - Access to agricultural biotechnology is
essential to improving the profitability and productivity of America's
farmers and ranchers, and this valuable farming tool should be defended
against actions proposed by anti-biotech ballot initiatives, according to
the president of the nation's largest farm organization.

During a grassroots meeting of local Farm Bureau members and others
involved in an effort to defeat the anti-biotech Measure D in Butte
County, Calif., American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman
said that farmers must have continued access to agricultural biotechnology.

"America's farmers are the world's most productive," Stallman said. "Each
U.S. farmer produces food and fiber for 144 people, both here and abroad.
Access to biotechnology is essential to this high level of productivity,
which is the basis of our nation's strength and food security."

Stallman, a rice producer from Texas, said anti-biotech groups - which
have failed at furthering their agenda on the national level - are
initiating local biotech bans, such as Measure D in Butte County, which
is up for a Nov. 2 vote.

"Local biotech bans threaten agricultural production one county at a
time," Stallman told attendees at a "No On D" rally. He also called on
members of the Butte County Farm Bureau to talk with their friends and
neighbors about what biotechnology means on their farms.

"You are activists for agriculture," Stallman said.

Debunking a misconception about biotechnology, Stallman said many top
foreign markets for U.S. ag products have readily embraced biotechnology,
including Japan, China, Canada and Mexico.

Stallman also told the group that "research conducted by scientific
bodies around the world strongly supports biotechnology." He cited recent
studies by the National Academies and the National Research Council,
which conclude that there is no reason to believe that biotech foods pose
a greater threat to human health than conventional foods.

In addition, Stallman said these scientific institutions reported that
there have been no documented cases of adverse health effects that could
be attributed to consumption of foods enhanced through biotechnology.

The United States is the leader in planting biotech crops. Around the
world, 7 million farmers in 18 countries have planted crops derived from


Cyndie Sirekis
(+1-202) 406-3649
Mace Thornton
(+1-202) 406-3641


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