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Sonoma County supervisors delay decision on proposed anti-GMO ballot measure

Angela Hart, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A proposed initiative to ban genetically modified crops and seeds in Sonoma County appears headed to voters this November, more than a decade after a similar proposal failed under intense political opposition.
The county’s top voting official has validated 20,065 of the 24,072 signatures collected by supporters, surpassing the minimum requirement to qualify a measure for the ballot.
The Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, however, postponed a decision on the measure, instead electing to analyze costs associated with enforcement of a ban, as well as potential impacts on land use regulations and local businesses.
The county expects to spend $30,000 to $60,000 for the University of California Cooperative Extension to study the issue, according to William Rousseau, the county’s Registrar of Voters.
Supervisors must decide in the next 30 days whether to adopt the ordinance outright as is or place it on the November ballot.
“The law is very clear,” Rousseau said. “They don’t have a choice. They have to put it on the ballot or adopt it.”
The board is unlikely to decide such a divisive issue on its own. A majority of the supervisors signaled a preference to advance the question to voters at the end of the study period next month.
Read more at: Sonoma County supervisors delay decision on proposed anti-GMO ballot measure | The Press Democrat

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Op-Ed: Making this area a GMO Free Zone

Pamela Gentry, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Please visit our website, GMOFreeSonomaCounty.com, where you can volunteer, donate and endorse with ease. You will find many different volunteer opportunities listed.

There is a grass-roots movement afoot in Sonoma County to join our neighbors to the north and south in creating a coastal GMO free zone. Volunteers for the group Citizens for Healthy Farms and Families can be spotted all over the county collecting signatures to qualify the Sonoma County Transgenic Contamination Prevention Ordinance for the ballot in November.
This ordinance would prohibit the “propagation, cultivation, raising or growing of genetically engineered organisms in Sonoma County.”
Roundup-ready, genetically engineered crops (corn) and grasses (alfalfa, blue grass and fescue) are already moving into Sonoma County. New crops are awaiting approval. This ban on genetically engineered crops is needed in order to protect Sonoma County organic and conventional agriculture from contamination by genetically engineered plant pollen. Without this protection, our families, water and wildlife will continue to suffer from negative health and environmental effects associated with increased Roundup herbicide spraying.
While the overwhelming response to our signature drive has been positive, I have been perplexed over the past several months on the signature-gathering trail by some of the negative viewpoints expressed.
Read more: Close to Home: Making this area a GMO Free Zone | The Press Democrat

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable LivingTags , , Leave a comment on Anti-Monsanto rally in Santa Rosa part of global effort

Anti-Monsanto rally in Santa Rosa part of global effort

Clark Mason, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States today have been genetically modified.

More than 150 demonstrators took to the streets of Santa Rosa on Saturday in a “March Against Monsanto,” part of an international event intended to draw attention to genetically engineered foods that they said pose health and environmental risks.

The demonstration was part of a campaign of similar peaceful protests planned in more than 400 cities in 38 countries against the agricultural biotechnology company, which specializes in genetically engineered seeds and herbicides.

Organizers said they focused on Monsanto because they view its products as a threat to organic farming, native plants and even bee colonies.

Led by the Hubbub Club marching band, the marchers went on about a 2-mile route from Old Courthouse Square to the South A and Brown Street neighborhoods, carrying signs with such slogans as “Save our seeds, Save our bees, No Monsanto,” and chanting “Listen up corporate dudes, we don’t want your frankenfoods.”

Back at Old Courthouse Square, the crowd was exhorted by speakers including Frank Egger, a former seven-time Fairfax mayor, to help pass a Sonoma County ban on genetically modified organisms, similar to ones in neighboring Marin and Mendocino, as well as Trinity and Santa Cruz counties.

Read more at: Dozens rally against agricultural company Monsanto in Santa

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, Sustainable LivingTags , , Leave a comment on U.S.D.A. develops label to verify G.M.O.-FREE. food

U.S.D.A. develops label to verify G.M.O.-FREE. food

Associated Press
The Agriculture Department has developed a new government certification and labeling for foods that are free of genetically modified organisms. The certification, which is the first of its kind, would be voluntary and companies would have to pay for it. If approved, the foods would be able to carry a “U.S.D.A. Process Verified” label along with a claim that they are free of G.M.O.s. The agriculture secretary, Tom Vilsack, outlined the new certification in a May 1 letter to department employees, saying it was being done at the request of a “leading global company,” which he did not identify. The government says G.M.O.s on the market now are safe, so mandatory labels are not needed. But consumer groups say shoppers still have a right to know what is in their food.
Source: U.S.D.A. Develops Label to Verify G.M.O.-FREE. Food – NYTimes.com

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, WildlifeTags , , , Leave a comment on Monarch butterfly moves toward Endangered Species Act protection

Monarch butterfly moves toward Endangered Species Act protection

PRESS RELEASE: Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Xerces Society
In response to a petition by the Center for Biological Diversity, Center for Food Safety, Xerces Society and renowned monarch scientist Dr. Lincoln Brower, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said today that Endangered Species Act protection may be warranted for monarch butterflies. The agency will now conduct a one-year status review on monarchs, which have declined by 90 percent in the past 20 years.

Monarch butterfly (docentjoyce, Wikimedia Commons).
Monarch butterfly (docentjoyce, Wikimedia Commons).

“The Endangered Species Act is the most powerful tool available to save North America’s monarchs, so I’m really happy that these amazing butterflies are a step closer to the protection they so desperately need,” said Tierra Curry, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity.
“Our petition is a scientific and legal blueprint for creating the protection that the monarch so direly needs, and we are gratified that the agency has now taken this vital first step in a timely fashion,” said George Kimbrell, Senior Attorney for Center for Food Safety.  “We will continue to do everything we can to ensure monarchs are protected.”
“We are extremely pleased that the federal agency in charge of protecting our nation’s wildlife has recognized the dire situation of the monarch”, said Sarina Jepsen, the Xerces Society’s endangered species director. “Protection as a threatened species will enable extensive monarch habitat recovery on both public and private lands.”
The butterfly’s dramatic decline is being driven in large part by the widespread planting of genetically engineered crops in the Midwest, where most monarchs are born. The vast majority of genetically engineered crops are made to be resistant to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, a potent killer of milkweed, the monarch caterpillar’s only food. The dramatic surge in Roundup use with Roundup Ready crops has virtually wiped out milkweed plants in Midwestern corn and soybean fields. In the past 20 years it is estimated that these once-common iconic orange and black butterflies may have lost more than 165 million acres of habitat — an area about the size of Texas — including nearly a third of their summer breeding grounds.
The population has declined from a recorded high of approximately 1 billion butterflies in the mid-1990s to only 35 million butterflies last winter, the lowest number ever recorded. The overall population shows a steep and statistically significant decline of 90 percent over 20 years. In addition to herbicide use with genetically engineered crops, monarchs are also threatened by global climate change, drought and heat waves, other pesticides, urban sprawl and logging on their Mexican wintering grounds. Scientists have predicted that the monarch’s entire winter range in Mexico and large parts of its summer range in the states could become unsuitable due to changing temperatures and increased risk of drought, heat waves and severe storms.
Monarch butterflies are known for their spectacular multigenerational migration each year from Mexico to Canada and back. Found throughout the United States during the summer months, in winter most monarchs from east of the Rockies converge in the mountains of central Mexico, where they form tight clusters on just a few acres of trees. Most monarchs west of the Rockies migrate to trees along the California coast to overwinter.
The size of the overwintering population in Mexico is expected to be up this year due to favorable spring and summer weather, but even with the expected one-year population increase, the monarch population will only be a fraction of its historical size.
Monarchs need a very large population size to be resilient to threats from severe weather events and predation. Nearly half of the overwintering population in Mexico can be eaten by bird and mammal predators in any single winter; a single winter storm in 2002 killed an estimated 500 million monarchs — 14 times the size of the entire current population.
The Fish and Wildlife Service must next issue a “12-month finding” on the monarch petition that will propose protection under the Endangered Species Act, reject protection under the Act or add the butterfly to the candidate waiting list for protection.
via Monarch Butterfly Moves Toward Endangered Species Act Protection.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food SystemTags , , , Leave a comment on State ag official says new law does not impact GMOs

State ag official says new law does not impact GMOs

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
A spokesman for the state Department of Food and Agriculture said Friday that a new law that has sparked alarm across California among opponents of genetically modified organisms will not impact the ability of local jurisdictions to regulate GMOs.
“It is clear that the legislative intent does not extend to the issue of GMOs,” Steve Lyle said via email.
However, the eagerly anticipated interpretation of Assembly Bill 2470 failed to ease concerns for Sonoma County GMO opponents, who vowed Friday to continue pressing for a countywide ban prior to the law’s taking effect Jan. 1.
“What if somebody else comes along and interprets it (the law) another way?” said Karen Hudson, coordinator of the group Sonoma County Label GMOs.
The Sebastopol City Council on Tuesday is scheduled to debate a resolution calling on the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors to enact an ordinance banning GMOs. Similarly, Santa Rosa Mayor Scott Bartley sent a letter to the board calling on supervisors to protect local authority over plants, seeds and crops.
Bartley on Friday said Santa Rosa’s concern isn’t with GMOs, but with maintaining “local control.”
The controversy centers on a single paragraph inserted late into an Assembly bill to reportedly deal with a narrow conflict — a proposed invasive plant policy in the city of Encinitas, in San Diego County. The final legislation has had a much wider fallout, leading GMO opponents statewide to wonder how the bill managed to get so little attention prior to Gov. Jerry Brown’s signing it Aug. 25.
Read more via State ag official: New law does not impact | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food SystemTags , , , , Leave a comment on Opponents of genetically modified crops alarmed at state law

Opponents of genetically modified crops alarmed at state law

Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Opponents of genetically modified organisms are sounding the alarm statewide over a new California law they contend could derail local efforts to regulate or ban not just GMOs, but all plants, seeds or crops grown in the state.
The controversy has drawn in the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors, who are divided over whether to seek immediate action, and put North Coast lawmakers on the defensive over why they voted for the bill.
That includes state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, who has long sought to label products in California that contain GMOs. The senator last week expressed dismay over the notion she may have unwittingly supported legislation that is now anathema to GMO opponents.
“Nobody raised any concerns about this bill,” which made changes to the innocuous-sounding California Seed Law, Evans said.
While GMO activists fear the new law could undercut local governments’ ability to restrict GMOs, they say it also could affect local officials’ power to regulate any type of seed or plant, ranging from wine grapes to marijuana.
Whether the changes actually accomplish what critics fear — granting the secretary of the California Department of Food and Agriculture authority over all ordinances enacted by local jurisdictions pertaining to seeds and crops grown in the state — is now the focus of intense review, including by county and state lawyers.
The ongoing controversy centers on a single paragraph inserted late into an Assembly bill to reportedly deal with a narrow conflict — over a proposed invasive plant policy in the city of Encinitas, in San Diego County. But the final legislation, AB 2470, has had a much wider fallout, leading GMO opponents statewide to wonder how the bill managed to fly so far off the radar prior to Gov. Jerry Brown signing it Aug. 25.
Read more at Opponents of genetically modified crops alarmed at state | The Press Democrat.

Posted on Categories Agriculture/Food System, UncategorizedTags , , , Leave a comment on New California law moves crop authority from county to state

New California law moves crop authority from county to state

Juniper Rose, TIMES-STANDARD ONLINE
EUREKA. A California law that will go into effect on Jan. 1 will transfer the authority to regulate seed and plant laws from counties to the state and has the potential to affect the ability of individual counties to ban GMOs.
The details on how the law would affect local ordinances that seek to regulate GMOs haven’t been evaluated yet, said Steve Lyle, the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s public affairs director.
Signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in August, California Seed Law — Assembly Bill 2470 — amends state Food and Agricultural Code sections relating to seeds.
The bill authorizes the California Department of Food and Agriculture secretary to adopt a list of plants and crops that the secretary finds are or may be grown in the state, according to the legislative counsel’s digest of the bill.
“The bill would also prohibit a city, county, or district, including a charter city or county, from adopting or enforcing an ordinance on or after January 1, 2015, that regulates plants, crops, or seeds without the consent of the secretary,” according to the digest.
Preexisting ordinances that restrict GMO crops — such as one in Arcata and Measure P, if it is passed by Humboldt County voters on Tuesday — would be grandfathered in and not affected by the law, Lyle said.
Counties looking to pass a GMO ban in the future could potentially be affected, he said.
“We would evaluate that on a case-by-case basis,” he said.
Measure P spokesman Bill Schaser said the California Seed Law makes it even more crucial for Humboldt County to pass the ballot initiative at this time.
via New Calif. law moves crop authority from county to state – Times-Standard Online.