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Sonoma County bans GMO crops

Center for Food Safety, ECOWATCH
The Center for Food Safety celebrated a huge victory in Sonoma County, California, on Wednesday when voters approved a measure that will prohibit genetically engineered crops from being planted in the county.
The passage of the Sonoma County Transgenic Contamination Ordinance, better known as Measure M, will protect local and organic growers and producers who choose not to plant GMO seed.
“Enacting change in the food movement, or any movement, starts at the local level and the passage of Measure M is an incredible victory for Sonoma farmers and gardeners,” Rebecca Spector, West Coast director of the Center for Food Safety, said. “Farmers deserve the right to grow food that is not contaminated by genetic engineering, just as the public deserves the right to purchase organic or GMO-free foods that are free from GMO contamination.”
Measure M passed by a large margin—55.9 percent to 44.9 percent—and Sonoma County now joins several neighboring counties including Marin, Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity and Santa Cruz that have passed similar ballot initiatives to protect farmers and crop integrity.
The Center for Food Safety is especially proud to see the democratic process work on behalf of our food, farmers and environment in this case for local food rights. The legal staff assisted in the drafting of the Sonoma ballot initiative and provided legal and scientific counsel throughout the last year, as with past county bans in California and in other states.
Source: Sonoma County Bans GMO Crops

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With Measure M, Sonoma County’s GMO foes seek to bolster organic agriculture 

Known as Measure M on the November ballot, it would make it unlawful for people or entities of any kind to “propagate, cultivate, raise or grow genetically modified organisms.”
The ordinance prohibits genetically engineered animals. Violators would be subject to a fine of $100 for the first offense.
What the ordinance will not do:

  • The ordinance would not prevent the sale or purchase of bio-engineered food or seed in Sonoma County.
  • Forbid medical treatment for humans or animals using altered vaccines or medications.
  • Prevent research into genetically modified organisms within the county as long as it was conducted in secure labs.

At McClelland’s Dairy west of Petaluma last week, cows needed no prodding to line up alongside metal rails where workers attached pumps to teats on the animals’ swollen udders. Fresh milk flowed through tubes, the amounts registered on digital meters.
When the session ended, a long gate like that on a carnival ride automatically released to let the cows out. Another group plodded in, and the milking began again.The ritual has been repeated at the Two Rock Valley ranch bordering Bodega Avenue for 51 years. But standing outside the milking barn in a warm afternoon sun, third-generation rancher Jana McClelland expressed concerns for the dairy’s future from a nearly invisible — some would say, imagined — threat.
McClelland fears the dairy could lose its coveted certification as an organic milk producer should pollen from a bio-engineered crop grown by a neighbor drift onto her family’s ranch. She and a number of other organic farmers in Sonoma County are supporting Measure M, a November ballot measure that proposes to ban genetically modified crops and seeds from being grown or used in unincorporated areas of the county.
“As an organic farmer, we want to use sustainable practices without the use of GMOs,” McClelland said. “This cross-pollination problem infringes on our right to be able to stay organic.”
A decade ago, Sonoma County voters overwhelmingly rejected a ban on GMOs following what likely was the most expensive ballot measure campaign in county history, with both sides spending a combined $850,000. So far, the 2016 campaign has not generated nearly the same heat. Citizens for Healthy Farms and Families, the group formed to support Measure M, has reported campaign contributions of $63,348, according to county records. Nearly half of that amount came from the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria.
Tribal Chairman Greg Sarris said the contribution reflects the tribe’s environmental mission and concerns about the risks of GMOs contaminating organic crops, including a 200-acre organic vegetable farm behind the tribe’s casino near Rohnert Park.
“For us, it was a no-brainer,” Sarris said of the donation.
To date, no organized Measure M opponent has reported raising any money.
Nevertheless, passions remain inflamed on both sides of the controversial issue. If passed, Sonoma County would join Mendocino, Marin, Trinity, Humboldt and Santa Cruz counties as the only communities in California to enforce bans on GMO seeds and crops.
Read more at: With Measure M, Sonoma County’s GMO foes seek to bolster organic agriculture | The Press Democrat

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Op-Ed: Farming into the future in Sonoma County

As we head toward making a decision on whether to allow GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) into our agricultural landscape, we are impacting the future of agriculture AND  our economy. Opening or closing the door to GMO food crops, in a way that will impact all crops grown in Sonoma County, will define what can and cannot be grown here since genetically modified plants spread seed and pollen far beyond the fence that contains them.
We’re also considering laws on a related substance that is intricately connected to GMOs – Roundup® – also known as glyphosate. Why the connection? Because many genetically modified seeds and plants are what is called Roundup-Ready…they are resistant to the chemical that kills weeds. That connection between killing plants and the impacts on people is getting a lot of attention.
Our Board of Supervisors has a choice of voting a GMO ban into law or letting it go to the November ballot. On Tuesday, May 24th – after we went to press – supervisors declined to vote on the ordinance as it stands, and passed it to voters in the November election.
In March 2015, glyphosate was declared to be a “probable human carcinogen.” It’s the primary ingredient in Roundup and is used heavily on GMO crops because they have been engineered to be resistant to it. You can spray an entire field to kill weeds but not harm the plant you want to keep alive…convenient for farmers for reducing competition for water.
Read more at: Farming into the Future in Sonoma County

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

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