GENET archive


6-Regulation: Turning point for California's farm industry - banning local GE crop moratoria

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

TITLE:  Turning Point for California's Farm Industry
        Industry aims to strip local control of food supply
SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle, USA, by Britt Bailey & Becky Tarbotton
DATE:   20 Jul 2005

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Turning Point for California's Farm Industry
Industry aims to strip local control of food supply

Britt Bailey is director of Environmental Commons in Gualala (Mendocino
County) and environmental policy instructor at the College of Marin in
Kentfield. For updated information on the seed and plant pre-emption
bills, visit
Becky Tarbotton is campaign coordinator for Californians for GE-Free
Agriculture, a statewide coalition promoting ecologically and
economically viable agriculture

Environmental and healthy-farming advocates are learning what tobacco-
free campaigners learned in the 1990s: When local governments step up to
protect their community's citizens, industry responds by taking away the
authority of local governments.

In spring 2004, three California counties and two cities passed
ordinances that restricted growing genetically modified organisms. In
response, state Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter (Kern County), earlier this
month gutted and then amended Senate Bill 1056 with some of the broadest
and most sweeping pre-emptive language ever written in the Legislature.
Its purpose? To override existing local restrictions, prohibit any future
initiatives that might restrict genetically engineered crops and
eliminate local control of seeds and plants. Essentially, to hijack
control of our food supply.

Just as the tobacco industry acted to restrict local tobacco controls in
20 states, agribusiness corporations and their affiliated associations
are behind the moves to thwart local efforts to restrict the growing of
genetically modified foods. In the 2005 session, 16 state legislatures,
including California, introduced bills prohibiting local control of seeds
and plants. The nearly identical language used in each of the bills
illustrates a systematic and ordered approach to stifling community
decision-making. Agribusiness councils, whose leadership includes members
such as bioengineering firms Monsanto and Syngenta, are promoting the
legislation while the bills' initial language has been developed by the
American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative public-policy

What will such pre-emptive laws do to local control? According to Tom
Campbell, director of the California Department of Finance, "state pre-
emption laws can do two things. They can overturn the will of the people
in the event an initiative has passed, and they can prevent the
introduction of laws on the same subject from being introduced in the
future." Pre-empting local authority stifles citizen participation in the
democratic process and should give pause for any legislator or citizen.
What are voters in Mendocino and Marin counties to think when their votes
to restrict genetically modified crops and protect local food and farming
are worthy of so little respect?

There is no denying that agricultural biotechnology is a complex and
controversial issue. You would think this would be all the more reason
public debate and discussion should be encouraged, not silenced. Yet if
legislators such as Florez have their way, citizens will lose an
opportunity to be part of the discussion to resolve one of the most
challenging issues of our time. Local initiatives and citizen actions
restricting genetically modified crops are a signal to the Legislature
that Californians are concerned about this new technology and, in the
absence of government leadership, are taking matters into their own hands
to protect their environment, economy and health.

Proponents of SB1056 assert that California needs uniformity and
homogeneity with regard to seed laws and that the state could not
possibly handle a patchwork of laws passed by local government. Yet, if
local authority over seeds is taken away by the state, then so is every
farmer's choice not to use genetically engineered seeds and plants. Once
genetically engineered plants are released into the environment,
historically preserved and heirloom seed strains are forever affected,
according to a 2004 report by the Union of Concerned Scientists. Diverse
agricultural economies may suffer from losses due to this contamination.
For example, if organic crops become contaminated with genetically
engineered pollen, those farmers may lose their organic certification.

In 1787, Thomas Jefferson wrote a letter to James Madison in which he
stated, "I know of no safe repository of the ultimate power of society
but the people, and if we think them not enlightened enough, the remedy
is not to take the power from them." That critical power is now being
challenged, as state Sen. Wes Chesbro, D-Arcata (Humboldt County), noted:
"Regardless of how you feel about the (genetically modified organism)
issue, taking away local voters' rights is a serious threat to democracy."

Please voice your opposition to SB1056, which impedes our ability as
community members to protect and create a sustainable food supply.
Contact your legislator (to find out who that is, go to
yourleg.html), Senate President Pro Tem Don Perata
( and Assembly Speaker Fabian Núñez
( This legislation does not
represent the freedoms our country was founded upon.

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

TITLE:  Turning Point for California's Farm Industry
        Let's reap the bounty of agricultural biotechnology
SOURCE: San Francisco Chronicle, USA, by Bill Pauli
DATE:   20 Jul 2005

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Turning Point for California's Farm Industry
Let's reap the bounty of agricultural biotechnology

Bill Pauli is president of the California Farm Bureau Federation
(, a statewide organization of nearly 89,000 family farmers.
For more information, visit the federation's Web site on agricultural

They say farmers get pretty set in their ways, and in a line of work
where tradition and routine are common, that's probably true. Some things
about farming don't change -- working with soil, planting with the
seasons, reaping during harvest.

But while the fundamentals of farming are well known, the actual practice
of growing and ranching in California has undergone much change and
innovation. We are among the most progressive farmers in the United
States, and we play a vital role in providing safe and healthy food
throughout the world. That's why I can't understand all the
misinformation associated with biotechnology, an established practice of
modern farming that makes our food more plentiful, longer-lasting and,
yes, healthier than ever.

Since it was introduced to U.S. markets in 1996, not a single person or
animal has become sick from eating biotech foods or feeds. Additionally:

-- All biotech crops on the marketplace today have been thoroughly
reviewed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of
Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration. They have been approved
only on a case-by-case basis.

-- The American Medical Association has stated that biotech plants have
the potential to improve nutrition and prevent and cure disease, and the
World Health Organization concludes that biotech crops can help
developing nations overcome food scarcity problems.

-- A 2004 report from the National Academy of Sciences concluded that
foods from biotech crops are as safe as any other foods in your supermarket.

In a recent survey, Californians told us they think it's important for
the state's family farmers and ranchers to stay in business. To do that,
we must take advantage of the latest innovations, such as biotechnology.
By saving on crop-production materials such as water and fuel, we can
continue to offer what Californians tell us they value so much: safe
food, open space, jobs and a wonderful, sustaining environment for wildlife.

I understand that some are unsure of biotechnology, and many concerns
have been addressed to the farming community in a thoughtful way that has
produced a sound dialogue and increased understanding. Others, however,
use scare tactics in an effort to ban biotechnology and deny everyone the
benefits of the best science and the most extensive research in the world

These political activists hope to pass a measure in Sonoma County in
November and to qualify county ballot measures to ban proven biotech
crops in several other regions, including Alameda ($37.3 million in
agricultural production) and Contra Costa ($108.6 million) counties. This
would be an economic disaster for California, the leading U.S.
agricultural state for more than 50 years.

Despite California's agricultural heritage, its future is uncertain.
Every year, California loses more than 100,000 acres of farmland to urban
growth. To produce more food on less farmland, today's farmer must have
access to innovative farming practices to continue feeding America.

There is no justification for restricting the family farmers' ability to
utilize the kind of breakthroughs and ingenuity we celebrate in every
other facet of life. In a world of camera phones, Palm Pilots and
Blackberries, why should farmers be made to use the outdated equivalents
of rotary phones, 8- track tapes and carbon paper?

I believe when the facts are known about biotech crops, consumers will
support the innovations of today and embrace their promise. They will do
this after considering an important reality that's true of every family
farm I know: Before any crop from our fields, whether traditional or
biotech grown, arrives on your table, it first gets served on ours.
That's why farmers have every incentive to grow and produce the best --
and the safest -- food in the world.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

Hartmut MEYER (Mr)
In den Steinäckern 13
D - 38116 Braunschweig

P: +49-531-5168746
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