Posted November 19, 2004, Californians for GE-Free Agriculture:
Residents in four California Counties - Butte, San Luis
Obispo, Marin and Humboldt - went to the polls to vote
on initiatives that ban the countywide planting of genetically
engineered (GE) crops and other organisms. Marin County
successfully passed an initiative with 62% support.
In Humboldt, 35% of voters supported the ban despite
the fact that advocates of the measure withdrew their
own support of the initiative several weeks ago after
discovering legal problems with the language, indicating
the likelihood that legislation will pass there in the
future. In both San Luis Obispo and Butte, the measures
failed to garner majority support, but gathered 41%
and 40% of the vote despite being significantly outspent
by agribusiness opponents such as the Farm Bureau.
In Mendocino County, the first county to pass a ban
in March 2004, the biotechnology industry lobbying organization
CropLife spent over $600,000 in a failed attempt to
influence the election outcome, six times more than
local supporters. The industry changed its tactics after
Mendocino, and opposition in Butte and San Luis Obispo
funneled through the Farm Bureau and other voices of
corporate agribusiness, outspending local supporters
4 or 5 to 1.
Over the past year California has become an epicenter
in the global struggle to stop the use of GE in agriculture.
In March 2004, voters in Mendocino approved a measure
to become the first county in the United States to ban
GE crops. In August, the Trinity County Board of Supervisors
voted to become the second. Many other counties, including
Sonoma, Alameda, and Santa Barbara, are organizing to
pass similar measures. Arcata is likely to become the
first US city to ban GE crops when the city council
votes at a November 3rd meeting.
"We are not the least bit deterred by the losses
in San Luis Obispo, Butte and Humboldt counties,"
stated GE-Free Sonoma Campaign Director Dave Henson.
Sonoma County is gathering signatures to qualify for
a June 2005 ballot. "This relatively young grassroots
movement of family farmers and citizens is just starting
to gain momentum."
"Genetic engineering corporations have foisted
these crops on farmers and consumers without sufficient
testing, regulation, or the ability to prevent contamination"
said Renata Brillinger, Director of Californians for
GE-Free Agriculture. "This movement of county bans
signals the need to pause in the headlong rush towards
genetic engineering, and to engage in a statewide democratic
debate about the future of this technology in California."