GENET archive


6-Regulation: GMO fight in California getting hotter

                                 Part I
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  GMO fight may hit record spending
SOURCE: The Press Democrat, USA, by Bleys W. Rose
DATE:   4 Oct 2005

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GMO fight may hit record spending
Rival campaigns on pace to raise a total of more than $1 million, perhaps
$2 million

Rival campaigns battling over the genetically engineered crop measure on
Sonoma County's ballot have reaped more than $540,000 in contributions as
they sprint toward the $1 million mark and a North Coast election record.

Fund-raising statements show GE-Free, the campaign promoting Measure M,
raised about $119,000 over the summer. The opposition Family Farmers
Alliance amassed about $135,000.

Together, they have collected more than $545,000 since launching their
efforts earlier this year.

Most observers expect the campaign, which pits environmentalists and
organic food interests against traditional farmers and some grape
growers, to raise more than $1 million because the issue has generated so
much heat and money elsewhere in California.

But at this rate, the duel over the genetically modified organism
initiative could hit $2 million in contributions.

Already, the fund-raising pace easily beats that set during the
contentious Rural Heritage Initiative in 2000. Just six weeks shy of that
election, both sides had raised a total of about $275,000 in campaigns
that ended up spending $900,000.

Measure M on the Nov. 8 ballot would impose a 10-year moratorium on use
of genetically altered organisms in crops, animal feed and plants. If
implemented today, it would affect only a handful of farmers, but both
sides say their efforts are aimed at the long-term effects of such an idea.

The finance statements cover July 1 to Sept. 24. Another report is due
Oct. 27 and, during the two weeks before the election, large
contributions are to be reported within 24 hours of donation.

The most recent reports showed the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center,
which owns an 80-acre farm in west Sonoma County that promotes organic
farming, remained the leading contributor to the GE-Free campaign. It
injected nearly $89,000 into the campaign over the summer, or about 75
percent of the total. The center's director, Dave Henson, is Measure M's
chief advocate.

A $20,000 donation came from Mark Squire, owner of Good Earth Natural
Foods in San Anselmo. He was a major contributor to a similar measure
that voters approved in Marin County.

Paula Downing of Sebastopol, who coordinates the Santa Rosa and
Sebastopol farmers markets, contributed $1,000.

"This is not an environmentalists versus the farmers issue for me; it is
about pollution of the entire environment with genetically engineered
seed," Downing said. "It is a very emotional issue for me and I had some
money to spend on what I feel."

Contributions to the opposition came primarily from the county's
agriculture community, with a significant dose from grape growers.

The Family Farmers Alliance, which claims support from the bulk of
agriculture interests, contends passage of the GMO measure will put
farmers and ranchers at an economic disadvantage.

The campaign's biggest single donor is the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, an
organization of about 3,000 ranchers, farmers and dairy interests.

The executive director, Lex McCorvey, is a leading opponent of Measure M.
The group contributed $25,000 over the summer, bringing its total to $50,000.

The campaign against Measure M is starting to attract some out-of-county
money, although not the biotechnology interests that funded opposition to
a similar measure in Mendocino County.

The California Egg Marketing Association gave $5,000; California Seed
Association, $2,000, California Grain and Feed Association, $1,000; and
Pacific Egg and Poultry Association, $1,000.

Grape industry interests contributing to fight Measure M include the
Sonoma County Grape Growers Association, $2,000; Healdsburg grower Helen
Bacigalupi, $1,000; Russian River grower DuMol Inc., $2,000; Dutton Ranch
Corp. of Sebastopol, $2,000; Santa Rosa's Hansel Winery, $1,000; Korbel
Inc. of Guerneville, $1,000, Peterson Vineyards, $1,000; and
Geyserville's Robert Young Vineyards, $1,000.

Some grape industry leaders say they oppose the measure because they fear
it prevents them from using the latest in biotechnology to fight Pierce's
disease, a vine killer.

                                 Part II
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  Column: Get to know the anti-biotech crowd
SOURCE: Western Farm Press, USA, by Harry Cline
DATE:   30 Sep 2005

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Column: Get to know the anti-biotech crowd

Nov. 8 seems just around the corner with the airwaves starting to jam up
with political commercials, mostly about the ballot propositions.

The Sonoma County initiative to ban biotech crops in that county will
hardly represent a blip on the California statewide election radar
screen, but as we have said in the past it has become the key to turning
back the anti-biotech crowd. Sonoma is heavily urban and the home base of
the anti-biotech movement. A defeat in Sonoma would be a major blow.

The Sonoma County Farm Bureau has marshaled forces to defeat the
initiative and indications are the effort has a good chance of defeating
the anti-biotech ballot measure.

The anti-biotech crowd has started its campaign by showing the movie
called the "Future of Food" in the county. I was loaned a copy with the
warning not to get too angry when I watched it. GMO Free Mendocino Doug
Mosel, the uneducated leader of the GMO Free Mendocino movement, called
it "the Fahrenheit 9/11 of the genetically engineered food battle."

I have not seen Michael Moore's tirade, but it if is as bad as the Future
of Food, it must be something.

The Future of Food is a slick and a wildly distorted view of not only
biotechnology, but agriculture in general. It includes photos of Nazi
soldiers and a claim that bomb making lead to fertilizer manufacturing.
It is so pathetic it is not worth watching, yet it must be viewed by
everyone involved in farming. Don't buy it. Just show up at a screening
and be prepared to be appalled. It is insulting to any discerning
person's intelligence.

It also it gives a clear picture of the level of distortion the anti-
biotech crowd is willing to plummet into to win this fight. You have to
wonder if the anti-biotech crowd really believes the stuff they put out.

Another example of the absurdity these people put out is an editorial
advisory e-mail a few weeks back from Ryan Zinn, a paid minion for the
Organic Consumers Association (OCA) of Minnesota who is often a spokesman
for the GE-Free California group.

It was entitled "OCA: How Organics Can Help Break the Chains of U.S.
Dependence on Foreign Oil. From Farm to Fork: How Much Oil Did You Eat
Today? Depending on Cheap, Imported Oil is Risky Business."

The solution is simple, according to OCA: Buy local and buy only organic.

OCA cites the Earth Policy Institute as the source for stating that the
U.S. food system, from actual food production (synthetic fertilizers,
pesticides, etc.), energy for irrigation, transportation, to
refrigeration packaging and preparation, uses enough energy equal to
supply all of France's annual energy needs.

According to Brian Halweil of Worldwatch Institute, a typical meal bought
from a conventional supermarket chain uses four to 17 times more
petroleum for transport than the same meal using locally produced ingredients.

That is it, all 297 million Americans should stop shopping at
supermarkets and go to the local organic food stand for their daily food
supply and there would be no oil crisis.

"The choice facing Americans is clear," says Ryan. "Buying local and
organic foods over the long term will result in a more sustainable food
distribution system we can afford, even as oil prices continue to rise.
By encouraging consumers to buy local, organic, we can improve public
health, preserve the environment and reduce the nation's dependence on
foreign oil."

What a solution to the energy crisis and cleanup of agriculture at the
same time! Brilliant observation, Ryan. We know we can count on OCA to
come up with solutions to the problems society faces.

The man behind OCA is Ronnie Cummins, its executive director. According
to, he has spent a lifetime as a professional activist.
Since getting his start in anti-war activism in 1967, he has dabbled in
the "human rights, anti-nuclear, labor, consumer and sustainable
agriculture" movements.

Cummins spent the 1990s leading food-scare efforts of national and
international scope, including Rifkin's "Beyond Beef" campaign, the "Pure
Food" campaign (which later became the OCA) and the "Global Days of
Action Against Genetic Engineering." At the height of the American mad-
cow food scare, Cummins insisted (with no evidence to support his
warning) that "we may already have an epidemic in the United States."

In 1998 Cummins told the Minneapolis City Pages that "Consumers and
farmers would both be better off if people paid twice as much for their
meat and ate half as much." And despite the promise of important biotech
advances to the world's food supply, Cummins promised a San Diego Union
Tribune reporter that "it's not going to be that long before we'll have
the same movement around industrial agriculture and genetic engineering
that we had around nuclear power."

In July 2000, Cummins poured his fear-of-food charisma into an
apocalyptic book called Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide
for Consumers. Despite his commitment to "educating" consumers through
his writing and organized protests, Cummins doesn't seem to have much
respect for them. At a June 2001 protest outside a Washington, D.C.
Starbucks coffeehouse, he conceded that his strategy depends on "the fact
that most consumers aren't smart enough to know what they want."

Just so everyone knows who the opposition is come Nov. 8 in Sonoma County.

                                 Part III
------------------------------- GENET-news -------------------------------

TITLE:  GMO ban and junk science
SOURCE: Sonoma Index-Tribune, USA, by Bill Lynch, Editor
DATE:   27 Sep 2005

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GMO ban and junk science

We know that they're generally on the opposite ends of the political
spectrum, but the advocates for banning genetically modified crops,
seeds, etc., seem to have a lot in common with the promoters of teaching
creationism as a science. They both attempt to blur the lines between
belief and scientific research in order to promote a strongly held point
of view.

Applied study at major research universities by very smart, well-
educated, well-trained, experienced scientists has high value in our
society. Americans respect the hard-earned credentials of top-level
scientists. They trust, use and benefit from the contributions
researchers have made to the quality of their lives.

For the majority, religious beliefs do not conflict with science to the
point of holding back progress toward cures for disease, new surgical
techniques to save lives, or agricultural advances to grow more crops to
feed the hungry.

Now, at the beginning of the 21st century, we see New Age philosophies
and old-fashioned evangelical religion seeking to gain equal status with
scientific research, with the potential to hold back the advances that
have extended life expectancy and raised our standard of living.

Fortunately, the creationists haven't yet forced their beliefs into local
science classrooms. Unfortunately, that is not true of those who want to
ban "transgenic" (genetically engineered) crops and other organisms. They
have managed to get a GMO ban proposition on Sonoma County's November
ballot by planting seeds of doubt and fear about the current process by
which the government now tests and regulates transgenic organisms. Ban
advocates claim that government regulations are nowhere near enough
protection against what could happen. Their major concern is that the
"organic" farmers will have their crops contaminated by runaway GMOs that
escape the fields in which they are used. From this fear flow other
predictions of dire consequences.

There are a lot of things wrong with the proposed county GMO ban, not the
least of which is the cost of enforcement and the potential damage to the
local economy.

The ordinance's advocates want to ban the application of modern science
in Sonoma County agriculture for 10 years. A laundry list of fears and
worst-case predictions, without solid data behind them, is not nearly
enough to justify such radical action.

Neither side in this dispute is free from self-interest. The anti-GMO
movement has strong backing from the organic food industry and its
special lobbying groups, while most local farmers, major agricultural
corporations and the general food industry all have an interest in using
science to increase productivity and profits.

Yes, this is about money, and it is about what local farms and vineyards
produce. When the vast majority of farmers in the county say this ban
will harm their businesses, we need to pay attention.

For this vote, please don't check your brains at the door. Read more. Be
skeptical of fear-mongering. Look at the credentials of advocates
closely. Who has credibility? What does the preponderance of scientific
research say? And don't forget that the local economy depends a great
deal on viable agriculture.

We are not finished with our reading and study on this topic, but, so
far, we see little difference between the anti-scientific GMO ban, and
other faith-based, flat-earth movements of the early 21st century.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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

P: +49-531-5168746
F: +49-531-5168747
M: +49-162-1054755
E: coordination(*)
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