California: GM crop planting banned in Sonoma County

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California: GM crop planting banned in Sonoma County

Sonoma has joined several counties in California in prohibiting plantings of genetically modified crops, after Measure M passed by a margin of 55.9% to 44.9% last week. 

Photo: Center for Food Safety

Photo: Center for Food Safety

Similar initiatives have also taken place in the counties of Marin, Mendocino, Humboldt, Trinity and Santa Cruz.

The Sonoma County Transgenic Contamination Ordinance was hailed as a "huge victory for voters" by the Center for Food Safety (CFS).

"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," said the center's West Coast director Rebecca Spector in a release.

"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."

The Sonoma County Alliance was critical of the measure, claiming it fails to recognize the overwhelming scientific evidence that concludes there is no associated danger from genetically modified crops.

"Group after group of recognized scientists from around the world, have taken a position in support of GMO’s and there are no verifiable instances of any harm to an individual from a product containing material from a GMO crop," the group said in a release in August.

"It fails to clearly define the process it wishes to ban, thus increasing the County’s exposure to lawsuits, and it does not recognize the ever changing technology continually being developed in plant science.

"It fails to recognize basic plant biology that differentiates between self-pollinating versus cross-pollinating fruit. In Sonoma County, the majority of crops are self-pollinating and present no danger at all to neighboring crops."

Most significantly, the alliance said the ordinance failed to allow for the opportunity of improvement in crops that would benefit both the economy and the environment.

"Currently work is under way to develop grape vines that are resistant to Pierce’s Disease and Powdery Mildew," the alliance said.

"When available, using these vines in Sonoma County vineyards would significantly reduce the needs for pesticides. Similarly, vines are being developed that would be more drought resistant, requiring substantially less water.

"Neither would be allowed in Sonoma County if this initiative is passed."

In a release, the CFS added its staff assisted in the drafting of the Sonoma ballot initiative, as with past county bans in California and other U.S. states.

The CFS highlighted its work with campaigns in Oregon and Hawaii to ban the planting of GE crops.

"When one of the Oregon county GE crop bans was challenged in court, CFS helped defeat that attempt and the county ban stands," the group said.

"Three county laws restricting GE crops and pesticide use in Hawaii have also been challenged in court and CFS is representing the county of Hawaii in one of the cases which is currently on appeal."

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