March 3, 2004 -- CropChoice news -- Associated Press:
Voters in Northern California's Mendocino County on
Tuesday passed a first-in-the-nation measure banning
the raising of genetically engineered plants and animals.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, the measure
won 14,384 votes, or 56 percent, to 11,148 votes, or
44 percent, opposed.
Legislation restricting biotechnology has been passed
elsewhere, but nothing as sweeping as the proposal in
Mendocino County, a place with a frontier spirit where
the biggest cash crop in marijuana.
The biotechnology industry lost the fight to stop Measure
H despite spending five times as much as supporters
during the campaign. Biotech foes hope the measure will
galvanize similar efforts from Vermont to Hawaii.
"They had the money, we had the people,"
said Els Cooperrider, who led the local ballot measure.
Organic vintners and farmers pushed for the ban, which
would not prevent processed food made with genetically
modified ingredients from being sold in stores. They
claim genetically modified plants and animals could
carry unintended health risks, although biotech supporters
argue that no negative effects have been reported since
the Food and Drug Administration first approved genetically
engineered crops for human consumption 10 years ago.
There are no known genetically modified crops raised
in Mendocino County, but farmers said they would use
the law as a marketing tool, especially in Europe, where
opposition to genetically engineered foods is fierce.