GENET archive


6-Regulation: "Your vote doesn't count at the WTO"

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

TITLE:  Your vote doesn't count at the WTO
SOURCE: The Hawk Eye, USA
DATE:   5 Sep 2004 

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Your vote doesn't count at the WTO

The most important election in farm country this fall won't be in
presidential swing states like Iowa and Wisconsin nor will it involve mad
cows, angry Brazilians or even promise-spewing, glad-handing politicians.

No, the most important farm-centered election this year will be in Butte
Country, Calif., where voters will choose whether or not to ban
genetically modified crops and livestock in the third biggest
rice-growing county in the United States.

In ballot initiative-crazy California, this ballot initiative, called
Measure D, is ringing alarm bells across the country. On Aug. 23, the
American Farm Bureau's biggest bigfoot, national president Bob Stallman,
rolled into Chico, the county's media center, to declare Measure D
"anti-progress and anti-corporate." Other national farm groups have
voiced similar criticisms.

As big as Butte County's proposed biotech ban could be, truth is it's a
latecomer to the California anti-GM movement. On March 2, voters in
nearby Mendocino County made it the first county in America to ban GM
crops and animals. The vote wasn't close. After being outspent $700,000
to $135,000 in a heated campaign, anti-GM forces claimed a stunning 57
percent of the vote.

In early August, Trinity County, Calif., officials imposed a GM ban
there. At least three other California counties have similar gene-ban
initiatives on the Nov. 2 ballots.

All come just two years after biotech's giants -- Monsanto, DuPont and
BASF among others -- crushed a statewide GM food labeling proposition in
Oregon. One month before that 2002 election, polling showed voters
favored GM food labeling nearly 2-to-1. Subsequently, the gene giants
flooded the state in anti-labeling ads to drown the ballot initiative by
a tidal 71-to-29 percent margin.

The California fight is taking on a different route, though. With so many
ballot initiatives in the country's largest ag state, GM proponents won't
use greenbacks as much as true blue political contacts to beat the bans.
They now appear to be leaping past expensive local battles to browbeat
Sacramento for clear, pro-GM state legislation.

Politically, it's the smart move, and one -- given America's fiercely
pro-business stance in global trade talks -- that would have occurred
sooner than later. Indeed, if the leather-lunged yakkers in the World
Trade Organization's ag talks ever fashion an acceptable treaty, two
things are virtually certain.

First, GM crops and livestock will find a happy home on the WTO range; no
bans no place on nothing from the Left Coast, East Coast or Ivory Coast.
After all, an estimated 70 percent of all U.S. groceries contain
genetically modified material today and no U.S. trade negotiator worth
his Guccis will accept a throttling back of America's world-leading gene

Secondly, and even more importantly, if the WTO's Doha ag talks render
global trading rules, those rules virtually supercede every local, state
and federal law on the books, says Matt Porterfield, a trade law
specialist and adjunct professor at Georgetown University's Harrison
Institute for Public Law.

The latest examples Porterfield cites are Brazil's twin WTO wins over
American cotton subsidies and European Union sugar payments. Those
rulings will force a rewrite of U.S. and E.U. farm policy.

"In general," he explained, "if a current domestic law appears to be
trade inhibiting -- and a local GM ban or labeling rule could be
reasonably challenged as such -- then expect WTO challenges."

Moreover, he continues, the California GM bans already appear to restrict
business investment in those counties. Under Chapter 11 of the North
American Free Trade Agreement (and now its Central American version,
CAFTA, too), biotech companies likely would sue the counties for
everything they are worth -- lock, stock and courthouse.

And if those two threats aren't big enough guns to blast local voters
back into the New World Order, "The federal government can sue in federal
court to strike down local and state rules, also," Porterfield added.

In short, the hot pursuit of world trade nirvana is creating new rules
that will overrule local, state and federal elections.

Which isn't so alarming when you consider the definition of nirvana: the
perfect state of bliss attained by the extinction of individuality.

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

TITLE:  Anti-GMO measure draws concern over constitutional rights
SOURCE: The Times-Standard, USA, by James Tressler,1413,127~2896~2382575,00.html
DATE:   5 Sep 2004 

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Anti-GMO measure draws concern over constitutional rights

EUREKA -- It sailed easily onto the November ballot -- and seemed to have
relatively little opposition.

But as if suddenly attacked by a swarm of locusts, a proposed measure
banning genetically modified crops in Humboldt County has fallen on hard

First the Humboldt County Democratic Party last month held off on
supporting Measure M after a leading Humboldt Statue University professor
found errors in some of the scientific language of the measure.

Then this past week District Attorney Paul Gallegos attacked the teeth of
the measure as unconstitutional and said that it could be thrown out by
the courts if ever challenged. Gallegos even reportedly called on the
measure's backers to abandon their support.

Gallegos pointed to a clause in the proposed ordinance, which voters will
decide on Nov. 2, that allows the county agricultural commissioner to
impose jail sentences on anyone caught growing or producing genetically
modified crops should the ban go into effect. The measure also calls on
the agricultural commissioner to impose fines on would-be violators.

Such punishment measures could be in conflict with the U.S. and state
constitutions, which leave the power to jail people exclusively with the
court system.

"There is no due process rights connected with the ordinance's means of
imprisonment, and that, in my eyes, is unconstitutional," the district
attorney was quoted as saying in a news report earlier this week.

Gallegos could not be reached for further comment in time for this story,
but his counterpart, Public Defender James Steinberg said he's inclined
to agree with Gallegos' assessment.

"I haven't read the measure, but it's obvious that an agricultural
inspector can't do that (jail people)," Steinberg said.

However, Steinberg said such initiatives often have what is called a
"saving clause" written into the language of the ballot measure that says
if parts of the law are stricken by the courts the remainder of the law
will stand. That could mean that genetically modified crops would still
be illegal in the county, even if courts find the enforcement tools unlawful.

But the ordinance, which can be viewed at the county Elections Office
website (, has no such disclaimer --
which could throw the entire ordinance in jeopardy.

"Without the severability clause, they do have problems -- fortunately
they're not my problems," said County Elections Manager Lindsey McWilliams.

The elections manager added, "It's on the ballot and it's staying there."

Earlier this year, county Agricultural Commissioner John Falkenstrom, who
has since retired, didn't take a position on the measure -- but he did
indicate he saw problems enforcing such a ban. He also said he predicted
such a ban could face court challenges.

The recent controversy has reportedly thrown the measure's authors, the
Humboldt Green Genes -- a coalition of environmentalists and organic
farmers -- into confusion over whether or not to keep supporting the

Martha Devine, co-chairwoman of the Green Genes, told the Times-Standard
that the group is in the process of deciding what to do next. That
decision could be announced at a press conference the group may hold
early next week, Devine said.

The Green Genes are trying to follow in the footsteps of Mendocino
County, which in March became the first county in the nation to pass a
ban on genetically modified crops. Supporters of such bans argue the
nation's food supply must be protected from genetically altered foods, in
part because they argue the long-term health risks of such altered foods
aren't yet known.

In July, the Green Genes easily surpassed the roughly 4,300 valid
signatures to qualify the measure for November. Locally, no groups have
formally opposed the measure. The Humboldt County Farm Bureau has
remained neutral, while the North Coast Growers' Association supports the ban.


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