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
Danny Hakim, THE NEW YORK TIMES
The controversy over genetically modified crops has long focused on largely unsubstantiated fears that they are unsafe to eat. But an extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.
The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.
Twenty years ago, Europe largely rejected genetic modification at the same time the United States and Canada were embracing it. Comparing results on the two continents, using independent data as well as academic and industry research, shows how the technology has fallen short of the promise.
Read more at: Doubts About the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops – NYTimes.com
Derek Moore, THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
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
Vesta Copestakes, SONOMA COUNTY GAZETTE
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
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
Mary Clare Jalonick, ASSOCIATED PRESS
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved genetically modified salmon, the first such altered animal allowed for human consumption in the United States.
The Obama administration had stalled in approving the fast-growing salmon for more than five years amid consumer concerns about eating genetically modified foods. But the agency said Thursday the fish is safe to eat.
In announcing the approval, the FDA said that there are “no biologically relevant differences in the nutritional profile of AquAdvantage Salmon compared to that of other farm-raised Atlantic salmon.”
AquAdvantage Salmon was created by the Massachusetts-based company AquaBounty. Ron Stotish, the company’s CEO, said in a statement that the fish is a “game changer that brings healthy and nutritious food to consumers in an environmentally responsible manner without damaging the ocean and other marine habitats.
“The fish grows twice as fast as normal salmon, so it reaches market size more quickly. It has an added growth hormone from the Pacific Chinook salmon that allows the fish to produce growth hormone all year long. The engineers were able to keep the hormone active by using another gene from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout that acts like an “on” switch for the hormone. Typical Atlantic salmon produce the growth hormone for only part of the year.
The FDA has also said the fish is unlikely to harm the environment. The fish would be bred female and sterile, though a very small percentage might still be able to breed. The company has argued the potential for escape is low.There is no evidence that the foods would be unsafe, but for some people, it’s an ethical issue.
Some retailers have pledged not to sell the salmon, and it’s still unclear whether the public will have an appetite for the fish if it is approved. Genetic engineering is already widely used for crops, but the government until now has not considered allowing the consumption of modified animals. Although the potential benefits and profits are huge, many people have qualms about manipulating the genetic code of other living creatures.
Critics call the modified salmon a “frankenfish.” They worry that it could cause human allergies and the eventual decimation of the natural salmon population if it escapes and breeds in the wild. Others believe breeding engineered animals is an ethical issue.
Source: FDA OKs Genetically Modified Salmon For Human Consumption
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
Daniel Cressey, NATURE
The cancer-research arm of the World Health Organization last week announced that glyphosate, the world’s most widely used herbicide, is probably carcinogenic to humans. But the assessment, by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) in Lyon, France, has been followed by an immediate backlash from industry groups.
On March 23, Robb Fraley, chief technology officer at the agrochemical company Monsanto in St Louis, Missouri, which sells much of the world’s glyphosate, accused the IARC of “cherry picking” data. “We are outraged with this assessment,” he said in a statement. Nature explains the controversy.
What does the IARC report say?
The IARC regularly reviews the carcinogenicity of industrial chemicals, foodstuffs and even jobs. On March 20, a panel of international experts convened by the agency reported the findings of a review of five agricultural chemicals in a class known as organophosphates. A summary of the study was published in The Lancet Oncology.
Two of the pesticides — tetrachlorvinphos and parathion — were rated as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”, or category 2B. Three — malathion, diazinon and glyphosate — were rated as “probably carcinogenic to humans”, labelled category 2A.
Why should I care about glyphosate?
Glyphosate is the world’s most widely produced herbicide, by volume. It is used extensively in agriculture and is also found in garden products in many countries. The chemical is an ingredient in Monsanto’s weedkiller product Roundup, and glyphosate has become more popular with the increasing market share of crops that are genetically engineered to be tolerant to the herbicide.
Read more at: Widely Used Herbicide Linked to Cancer – Scientific American
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.
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.