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9-Misc: Biotech crops get backing in poll in California - but 30% want state to ban them

-------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Biotech crops get backing in poll
        But 30 percent want state to ban them.
SOURCE: The Sacramento Bee, USA, by Jim Wasserman
DATE:   10 Aug 2005

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Biotech crops get backing in poll
But 30 percent want state to ban them.

As Sonoma County voters consider making theirs the fourth California
county to ban genetically modified crops, backers of agricultural
biotechnology have released a poll showing 54 percent of likely state
voters believe farmers should be able to grow biotech crops.

Thirty percent believe biotech crops should be banned from California's
fields, the poll says, and 16 percent of those surveyed said they didn't
know. Asked if they would consider buying foods containing biotech
ingredients, 53 percent of respondents said they would, while 37 percent
said they would not.

The findings come as national, state and local opponents of genetically
modified crops aim to pass a voter-approved ban on the crops in Sonoma
County on Nov. 8.

Renata Brillinger and other supporters of the measure questioned the
survey results, saying answers depend on how questions are phrased.
Brillinger, director of Californians for GE-Free Agriculture, explained
that more people are opposed when they hear biotech crops described as
genetically modified.

Similarly, Ryan Zinn of Minnesota-based Organic Consumers Association
said people often don't realize biotech foods aren't labeled.

If they heard this and also learned that neither the U.S. Department of
Agriculture nor the Environmental Protection Agency tests these crops,
said Zinn, the organization's San Francisco campaign coordinator, "I
doubt any right-minded person would give the green light to plant these
foods or crops."

If passed, a Sonoma County ban would join those already in effect in
Mendocino, Marin and Trinity counties. Next year biotech opponents are
considering still more county ballot measures, with Sacramento, Yolo,
Nevada and Placer counties among potential targets.

The telephone survey of 900 likely voters showed support for genetically
engineered crops is highest in the state's agricultural Central Valley
and among those who claim to know "a lot about biotech crops."

In the San Joaquin and Sacramento valleys, 68 percent of those surveyed
said farmers should be able to grow them, while 72 percent of those who
said they know a lot about biotech crops agreed.

Agricultural biotechnology is the science of transferring genes - the
small biological units that shape life - between species. So far, biotech
farming largely makes crop plants resistant to weedkillers and gives
plants an ability to kill insects.

California has an estimated 600,000 acres of biotech crops, mostly cotton
and corn largely grown in the Central Valley. Globally, farmers planted
200 million acres last year, according to the Council for Biotechnology
Information in Washington, D.C.

With three months until the Sonoma County vote, elections officials
reported Monday the anti-biotech GE-Free Sonoma County Committee has so
far raised $155,605 for its campaign to ban biotech crops in the wine-
growing and dairy county. The pro-biotech Family Farmers Alliance has
raised $136,827, elections officials said.

The survey, which was in the field from May 3-5, was commissioned by a
pro-biotech coalition that includes the California Chamber of Commerce;
St. Louis-based biotechnology giant Monsanto Co.; and BIOCOM San Diego, a
trade association of Southern California biotech firms.

Statewide, 54 percent of those surveyed said they knew biotech crops are
already grown in California and 51 percent knew California grocery stores
sell foods made from biotech crops.

"There's a tremendous benefit for use of biotech crops not only in
California but across the country," said Jesús Arredondo, a Monsanto
spokesman in California. "What we see is that people in California are
noticing, and are comfortable with biotech crops."


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