GENET archive


6-Regulation: Sonoma County (USA) veterinarians oppose ban on GMOs

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

TITLE:  County's veterinarians oppose ban on GMOs
        Group cites fears over possible restrictions on animal vaccines
SOURCE: The Press Democrat, USA, by Bleys W. Rose
DATE:   12 Oct 2005

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County's veterinarians oppose ban on GMOs
Group cites fears over possible restrictions on animal vaccines

A veterinary group has opposed Measure M, saying it could curtail use of
some animal vaccines.

Alarmed that a proposed GMO ban on November's ballot may prevent dogs,
cats, horses and cattle from getting life-saving vaccinations, Sonoma
County's leading veterinary group has decided to oppose the measure.

Genetically modified organisms would be banned in Sonoma County for 10
years under Measure M on the Nov. 8 ballot. Although these organisms were
developed by scientists to produce hardy, herbicide-resistant crops like
corn, they also appear elsewhere, such as in some animal vaccines.

"Passing Measure M will be a dramatic step back for the care of pets and
livestock," said Dr. Sue Boynton, president of the 90-member Redwood
Empire Veterinary Medical Association. "We are using recombinant
technology every day to help our patients."

Concerns about the measure's impact on animal vaccines also has prompted
questions about whether human vaccines could be restricted.

A spokesman for the Sonoma County Medical Association said the group has
not researched the question and will not take a position on the ballot

A spokeswoman for the county Public Health Department, however, said
human vaccines now being developed could be restricted.

"The impact on human vaccines is uncertain," said Dr. Mary Maddux-
Gonzalez. "It does not appear that it would limit vaccines currently in
use, but there are several in development that work on replication of a
virus in the body."

She said the vaccines that could be affected are being developed to
combat HIV, Avian flu and West Nile virus.

Opponents of Measure M, led by the Family Farmers Alliance, say they are
seeking opinions of medical experts on the issue of GMOs in human
vaccines, but proponents flatly deny their measure will prevent county
residents from receiving shots.

Boynton said the group reached its decision after meeting with officials
from both campaigns, consulting with vaccine manufacturers and polling
its membership. She said the group's five-member board of directors voted
unanimously to oppose Measure M during a meeting last week.

GE-Free Sonoma, the group promoting Measure M, maintains the law would
not prohibit vaccine usage on animals. Campaign spokesman Dave Henson
said animal vaccines do not contain DNA that can be replicated within the
animal and then transmitted.

"Our intention is to prevent organisms engineered in such a manner that
they can be reproduced, and those in the vaccines in question can't
replicate," said Henson, director of the Occidental Arts and Ecology
Center, the leading backer of Measure M. "I know there is an uproar in
the community about this, but this is fear mongering."

If implemented, Measure M could be modified by the county Board of
Supervisors with a unanimous vote of the five-member board.

Debate over Measure M's effect on animal vaccines comes just as the rival
campaigns sent registered voters large, colorful postcard-style mailers
this week.

Although Measure M is aimed at halting use of genetically engineered
crops, opponents say it is riddled with unintended consequences, such as
the effect on use of live organisms in animal vaccines. Proponents
counter that their measure's main thrust is halting organisms from
jumping from GMO crops to organically grown crops, and they say opponents
have seized upon the vaccine issue as a distraction.

The postcards highlight divergent interpretations of Sonoma County
Superior Court Judge Allan Hardcastle's decision last month on which
claims regarding human and animal vaccines Measure M proponents could
make in the county's sample ballot.

The opponents' literature says the GMO ban would restrict some current
animal vaccines and might restrict human vaccines developed in the
future. They cite Hardcastle's decision, which deleted from the
proponents' ballot argument the statement that the measure "does not
limit research, production and use of genetically engineered drugs and
vaccines for people and animals."

The proponents' mailer, however, continues to maintain that animal and
human vaccines are not banned. Henson said he believes the judge's
disagreement was with the assertion that drugs and vaccines aren't
limited because the measure does restrict GMOs in laboratory conditions,
such as operated by a biotech company.

Hardcastle was unavailable for comment Tuesday.

Deputy County Counsel Kathleen LaRocque, who represented the county at
the contentious hearing over sample ballot wording, said the judge
excised the proponents' assertion about human and animal vaccines because
"the statement was false and misleading," but he did not rule on whether
Measure M clearly prohibits the drugs.

Boynton said veterinarians considered Hardcastle's opinion on sample
ballot language in deciding to oppose Measure M. She said genetically
modified organisms exist in the feline leukemia and rabies vaccine for
cats, distemper vaccine for dogs, anti-brucellosis vaccine for cattle and
West Nile virus vaccine for horses.

"This is very rare for vets to be political, but faced with the
possibility that this may affect vaccines, it made us stand up and take
notice," Boynton said.

Boynton said veterinarians had monitored the drafting of the measure's
language since April, when members initially raised questions about a GMO
ban's effect on vaccine usage. They had several meetings with leaders of
the rival campaigns and had hoped to avoid taking a stance because
personal opinions were so heated, she said.

"Deciphering the wording has been tricky. It is the ambiguity that made
us worried," Boynton said.

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

TITLE:  Two sides far apart on GMO ban
SOURCE: Argus-Courier, USA, by Corey Young
DATE:   12 Oct 2005

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Two sides far apart on GMO ban
Forum on ballot measure highlights sharp disagreements on benefits and
risks of genetically altered crops

Are genetically modified crops a threat to Sonoma County's premium farm
products and a looming risk to organic growers? Or are they harmless and
beneficial to farmers?

At a Petaluma forum on genetically modified organisms last week, the
answer depended on who you asked.

Those on each side of Measure M -- a countywide ballot measure this
November that would ban GMOs for 10 years -- presented sharply differing
accounts of whether those altered crops cause concern among farmers, the
effects of the ban on medical and veterinary treatments and the validity
of the measure itself.

Written and supported by a group called GE-Free Sonoma and the Occidental
Arts and Ecology Center, Measure M is needed as a "time-out" so
scientists, researchers and farmers can learn more about the effects of
genetically engineered seeds on local agriculture, said Daniel Solnit,
the Yes-on-M campaign coordinator.

But such seed can lead to crops that require less pesticide and other
tending, so that farmers can grow products cheaper and faster and compete
in a world that is just beginning to realize the benefits of genetically
enhanced food, said Lex McCorvey, executive director of the Sonoma County
Farm Bureau, which is opposing Measure M along with the Sonoma County
Grape Growers Association.

During the 90-minute forum at the Petaluma Community Center, attended by
about 45 people, McCorvey and Solnit painted vastly different pictures of
what Measure M will and won't do.

Both sides accused the other of relying on "junk science" and disagreed
over which side has the backing of farmers and vintners. They clashed
over whether the measure is written as sound law and were 180 degrees
apart as to whether medical vaccines would be banned as well.

"This measure will limit our access to health care," McCorvey said,
adding that 12 vaccines for animals would be outlawed under Measure M
because they have genetically enhanced traits.

"The Sonoma County initiative has no exemption for medical uses," he said.

Solnit responded that the measure does indeed exempt medical research and
that vaccines used by both doctors and veterinarians won't be banned.

"Our best legal and scientific information has told us this does not
apply to vaccines," he said. "We are not banning any drug, any vaccine.
This is about crops."

The danger to Sonoma County farmers, Solnit said, is if genetically
engineered seeds from one field contaminate another. Once that happens,
how the group of second crops will respond is not clear -- but Sonoma
County shouldn't risk finding out, he said.

"In the absence of adequate testing, we don't think it's a good idea to
gamble with Sonoma County's agricultural heritage and economy," Solnit
said. "Once you get that stuff in your field, it's very hard to get rid
of it. We don't think Sonoma County should be the testing ground for this

Calling Measure M "the most important initiative that voters in our
county will vote on," McCorvey said the use of GMOs is "a new tool" that
can increase profits for the county's small farmers while fighting
insects and other agricultural pests.

"There is no evidence that genetically engineered food isn't safe," he
said, dismissing studies cited by the measure's supporters.

Genetically engineered technology will produce "safer, more nutritious
foods," McCorvey said.

"We are just on the cutting edge in terms of what it can do for us," he said.

Solnit said while most Sonoma County crops aren't currently genetically
engineered, "our concern is they could be in a few years. This is a
preventative ordinance. We should step back and take a time-out until the
research is done."

But passing Measure M will not only lead to high taxpayer costs for
cleaning up any farmland found with genetically altered crops, it will
also put local farmers and ranchers "at a competitive disadvantage,"
McCorvey argued.

He cited his own experience as a cattle rancher and said the use of
pesticide-resistant alfalfa is a cheaper way to grow feed for animals.

"I won't have to use herbicides because of my ability to use a product
like Round-up Ready alfalfa," McCorvey said.

Solnit rebutted that the responsibility for cleaning up contaminated
farmland lies with the violator who grew the genetically engineered crop
in the first place. And he said there are exemptions written into the
proposal for using engineered animal feed.

The Sonoma County attorney's analysis of Measure M says the measure will
prohibit growing genetically engineered animal feed, but allows the
import and sale of such feed. And licensed medical and agricultural
research using genetic engineering is allowed, so long as the altered
organism is contained from reproducing, as called for in federal guidelines.

As for cleaning up contaminated fields, the costs could range from
"nominal" to $86,000 per acre, the county auditor found.

"This cost is assumed to be paid by the violator," the county's fiscal
impact statement says. In the case of an unknown violator, "the
initiative assumes the county would be responsible for cost."

But Solnit said the campaign for Measure M believes those estimated costs
are inflated and it could actually cost less than $100 for violators.

And he said if a genetically engineered solution for Pierce's Disease,
which attacks grape vines, is discovered while Measure M is in effect, he
believes county supervisors will vote to make an exception to the no-GMO
rule because "it's not a contamination threat."

A vote of all five supervisors would be needed to overturn provisions of
Measure M if it passes on Nov. 8.


European NGO Network on Genetic Engineering

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

P: +49-531-5168746
F: +49-531-5168747
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