GENET archive


6-Regulation: Lake County (USA) going to decide on GE alfalfa moratorium

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

TITLE:  GMO debate comes to Lake County
SOURCE: Record Bee, USA, by John Jensen
DATE:   16 Aug 2005

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GMO debate comes to Lake County

LAKE COUNTY -- Genetically engineered crops won't be growing in Lake
County anytime soon if local growers have their way.

Lake County supervisors will consider a moratorium on planting of
genetically modified, herbicide-resistant alfalfa during the Aug. 23
board meeting.

The Lake County Coalition for Responsible Agriculture (LCCRA) is
proposing the moratorium to give the county time to learn more about the
benefits and hazards of planting the genetically modified seeds.

LCCRA is a coalition of several groups and numerous individuals, organic
farmer Phil Murphy said.

"It's Lake County Healthy Environment and Living (HEAL), the Sierra Club,
conventional and organic growers," Murphy explained.

Agricultural products using genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are
entering mainstream agriculture in the U.S. -- despite resistance to the
technology in some parts of the country and in California, where
genetically modified, herbicide-resistant alfalfa seeds have been
released for sale.

The seeds are the product of Monsanto Co., the same company that makes
the commonly used herbicide Roundup.

Proponents include the Farm Bureau and Monsanto, who argue that it will
increase yields and reduce herbicide use.

"We live in the age of computers. This is just a technological way to
increase production using less pesticides," said Lake County Farm Bureau
Executive Director Chuck March. "This is just a future step in agriculture."

Detractors of the genetically modified seeds say they will necessitate
increased herbicide spraying. They also claim Monsanto's licensing
agreement will potentially expose farmers to copyright infringement
lawsuits from the company as traditional crops are contaminated by
genetically modified crops.

The problem with cross pollination of the crops is that Monsanto doesn't
want people stealing its technology and selling the seeds as their own.
The thing is, bees pollinate plants, so crops could be pollinated without
a human hand in it.

March doesn't see it quite that way. "That's been a scare tactic on the
GMO issue," he said. "When Monsanto comes out with a product they have
patents on the seed."

One solution, March said, is buffer zones.

Denise Rushing, a walnut grower in Upper Lake, wants to grow organic
alfalfa between her walnut trees in a farming process called permaculture.

"Some alfalfa is grown naturally," she explained. "Permaculture no-till
agriculture is basically planting grasses with animals that can graze and
provide organic enrichment over the soil," she said.

While neighbors planting GMO crops won't eliminate her ability to grow
organic, she doesn't like the idea that to protect her crops from
somebody else's she would be required to create a buffer zone.

"It doesn't preclude it, it just requires extra work on my side," she
said. "It requires a buffer zone so I have to have some of my land out of

Supervisors will get to listen to the arguments on Tuesday and decide
which way to go. District 1 Supervisor Ed Robey said he wasn't entirely
sure why the moratorium was strictly on a single crop.

"If we're going to pass an ordinance on alfalfa, why not on all GMOs,
including alfalfa?" he asked.

Robey said he isn't interested in an outright ban on GMOs -- as
neighboring Mendocino County put into effect -- but he suggested that the
single crop moratorium might not be enough.

"I would prefer to talk about the whole enchilada and not just a bite of
it," he said.


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