Humboldt County "Genetic Contamination Prevention Ordinance" GMO Ban Initiative, Measure P (November 2014)

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A Humboldt County "Genetic Contamination Prevention Ordinance" GMO Ban Initiative, Measure P ballot question will be on the November 4, 2014 election ballot for voters in Humboldt County, California.

The Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt requested and received an official ballot title and summary for an initiative measure that would, if successful, "prohibit the propagation, cultivation, raising, or growing of genetically modified organisms in Humboldt County." The ordinance enacted by the approval of this measure would classify the growth of genetically modified organisms as a public nuisance and would dictate that violations be referred to the county agricultural commissioner. In the event of a violation, the genetically modified materials would be confiscated or destroyed, and a fine could be imposed. In cases of a citizen making an allegation of GMO growing activity, the person with the complaint would be required to show convincing evidence of the violation.[1][2]

The Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt needed only about 4,300 valid signatures to qualify their initiative for a voter decision, but leaders of the committee hoped to collect between 8,000 and 10,000 signatures before Earth Day on April 22. GMO Free Humboldt submitted over 8,500 signatures during the last weeks of April 2014. The petition was validated on May 15, 2014.[3][1][4]

Bill Schaser, spokesperson for the Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt, indicated that the committee does not know what to expect in terms of opposition to the ordinance. Referring to chemical and agricultural industry lobbying groups that have spent large amounts of money in opposition to GMO labeling laws, GMO bans and other GMO restrictions, Schaser said, "I don't know what forces will come in here. Maybe the big boys will ignore us, but we have to be prepared.” The campaign planned to raise an initial $10,000 to begin campaigning for the measure.[1]

A similar GMO ban will be on the ballot for voters in Jackson County and Josephine County, Oregon, on May 20, 2014. Two other efforts to ban GMOs are ongoing in Benton and Lane counties.

Text of measure

Ballot title

The official ballot title is:

Prohibition on the propagation, cultivation, raising and growing of genetically modified organisms in Humboldt County.[5][6]

Summary

The official summary is as follows:[5]

The purpose of the proposed ordinance is to prohibit the propagation, cultivation, raising, or growing of genetically modified organisms in Humboldt County. The ordinance would make it unlawful for any person, partnership, corporation, firm, or legal entity of any kind to cultivate, raise, or grow genetically modified organisms in Humboldt County. A Genetically modified organism is defined as an organism, or the offspring of an organism, the DNA of which has been altered through genetic engineering. The ordinance does not apply to organisms created by traditional breeding or hybridization, or to microorganisms created by moving genes or gene segments between unrelated bacteria.

The proposed ordinance places the primary enforcement responsibility on the Agricultural Commissioner of Humboldt County. The ordinance provides for the confiscation and destruction of organisms found to be prohibited by the ordinance and authorizes the Agricultural Commissioner to impose a monetary penalty on the person or entity responsible for the violation. The Agricultural Commissioner is obligated to notify the responsible person or entity when organisms are subject to confiscation and destruction. Such persons or entities would have thirty (30) days to respond to such notification with evidence that such person or entity is not in violation. The Agricultural Commissioner would have discretion to extend the time available to present evidence when additional time is reasonably required to gather and submit required evidence.

Any violation of this ordinance shall constitute a public nuisance. Upon a finding of continuing nuisance, the Agricultural Commissioner would have authority to immediately order the destruction or permanent removal of any such genetically engineered organisms.[6]

GMOFreeHumboldt.jpg

Full text

The full text of the ordinance is available here.

Background

There are currently very few genetically altered products grown in Humboldt County. The only area of agriculture that uses GMO seeds widely is feed corn growers who use "Roundup-ready" corn especially to sell as dairy cattle food. Schaser stated that, according to some estimates, there are between 80 and several hundred acres of GMO crops in the whole county.[1]

Support

Measure P support campaign logo

Supporters

The Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt is sponsoring and backing the initiative.[2]

Eureka Natural Foods and the North Coast Co-op, two local stores that focus on organic and natural foods, endorsed the proposed ban and set up permanent tables for signature gatherers during circulation.[7]

A "Yes on P" campaign was started to support the initiative ballot measure.[8]

The "Yes on P" campaign website listed the following supporters of initiative:[8]

Farms & Ranches

  • Alexandre Family EcoDairy Farms
  • Angora Bunny Lady
  • Bayside Park Farm
  • Bear River Valley Beef
  • Bigfoot
  • Blue Blossom Farm
  • Blue Jay Nursery
  • Briceland Forest Farm
  • Camp Grant Ranch
  • Clendenen’s Cider Works
  • Deep Seeded Community Farm
  • Ewe So Dirty
  • Feral Family Farm
  • Fine Feather Ranch
  • Flood Plain Produce
  • Flora Organica
  • Flying Blue Dog Farm & Nursery
  • Forest Lakes Nursery
  • Fungaia Farm
  • Garberville Community Farm
  • Hillbelly Farm
  • Little River Farm
  • Lost Coast Ranch
  • Moonshadow Farm
  • Mycality Mushrooms
  • Neukom Family Farm
  • New Moon Organics
  • Norton Creek Farm
  • Organic Matters Ranch
  • Paradise Flat Farm
  • Paul Lohse
  • Pierce Family Farms
  • Redwood Roots Farm
  • River Bees Ranch
  • Rolling River Nursery
  • Ruby Slippers Farms
  • Sarvinski Family Farm
  • Shakefork Community Farm
  • Shinn Dairy
  • Sousa Ranches
  • Synergy Seeds
  • Tom Rayl Dairy
  • Tule Fog Farm
  • Two Mule Farm
  • Warren Creek Farm
  • Willow Creek Farms
  • Wolfsen Farms
  • Yewbear Farms

Vineyards & Breweries

  • Briceland Vineyards Winery
  • Coates Vineyards
  • Frey Vineyards
  • Humboldt Regeneration Brewery & Farm
  • Lost Coast Vineyards
  • Monument Mountain Vineyards
  • Robert Goodman Wines
  • Winnett Vineyards

Grocery Stores & Restaurants

  • 3 Foods Cafe
  • Arcata Scoop
  • Beachcomber
  • Cacao Cocoon
  • Calico’s Cafe
  • Chautauqua Natural Foods
  • Crush Restaurant & Wine Bar
  • Ethiopian International Cafe
  • Eureka Natural Foods
  • Folie Douce
  • Henry’s Olives
  • Humboldt Bar & Grill
  • Humboldt Bay Coffee
  • Humboldt Healthy Foods
  • Ino Sauce
  • Juice Jungle
  • Kyoto Sushi
  • La Trattoria
  • Luke’s Joint
  • Mario’s Lost Coast Cafe & Bakery
  • McKinleyville Central Market
  • Natural Decadence
  • Nature’s Serving
  • North Coast Co-op
  • Persimmons Garden Gallery
  • Redwood Meats
  • Renata’s Creperie
  • Roger’s Market
  • Rumiano Cheese Company
  • Signature Coffee
  • Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates
  • Sweet Basil Catering
  • The Other Place
  • Tofu Shop Specialty Foods
  • Vixen Kitchen

Other Businesses

  • A & L Feed
  • ABC (Alternative Building Center)
  • Arise Natural Health
  • Biofeedback
  • CastleWare Baby
  • Eden
  • Essential Elements
  • Freedom Organics
  • Garden of Beadin
  • Got Respect Store
  • Grow It Right Aquaponics
  • Humboldt Herbals
  • Humboldt Hunnies Day Spa
  • Humboldt Pet Supply
  • Julian Berg Designs
  • Lil Sproutz
  • Local Thrift
  • Mattole River Studios
  • New World Water
  • Northcoast Horticulture Supply
  • Organic Grace
  • Pacific Watershed Associates
  • Plant Repairs
  • RAO Construction
  • Salmon Creek Wood Designs
  • Sequoia Wellness & Apothecary
  • Solutions
  • The Garden Gate
  • The Hemp Connection
  • The Stork’s Nest
  • Two Doors Down
  • Western Botanical Medicine

Organizations & Political Parties

  • Biosafety Alliance
  • California Native Plant Society – North Coast Chapter
  • Dow’s Prairie Community Grange #505
  • Environmental Protection Information Center (EPIC)
  • Freshwater Grange #499
  • GMO Free San Juan County
  • Green Party of Humboldt County
  • Humboldt County Democratic Central Committee
  • Humboldt County Traditional Foods (Weston A. Price chapter)
  • Humboldt Permaculture Guild
  • LabelGMOs.org
  • Locally Delicious, Inc.
  • North Coast Growers Association
  • Northcoast Environmental Center
  • Organic Consumers Association
  • Organic Seed Alliance
  • Southern Humboldt Farmers Market

Individuals

  • Hezekiah Allen
  • Andy Caffrey
  • Dr. Christine Cass, PhD
  • George Cooney
  • Allan Crocket
  • Natalynne DeLapp
  • Dr. Frank DiBari, DDS
  • Colin Fiske
  • Bruce Herzbach
  • Kevin Johnson
  • Chris Kerrigan (Former Eureka City Council Member)
  • Rachel LaMell
  • Sharon Latour
  • Peggy Leviton
  • Mark Lovelace (Humboldt County Supervisor, Third District)
  • Eileen McGee
  • Carol Moné
  • Trisha Riel
  • Bill & Kay Schaser
  • Judi Scharnberg
  • Andrew Schwarz
  • Kate Selway
  • Merrillyn Setterlund
  • Kevin Sharkey
  • Nicole Spencer
  • Leah Stamper
  • Yvette Troyna
  • Dianne Whiteheair
  • Kurt Wrede

Arguments in favor

The committee gave these reasons for supporting the initiative:[2]

The Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt is working to get an initiative on the November 2014 ballot that would prohibit the cultivation and production of GMOs in Humboldt County. We are an all-volunteer, grassroots effort. Here’s what moves us:

Fairness

We want to ensure that the many farmers and gardeners in our county who choose to plant non-GMO seeds won’t have to worry about the genetic contamination of their crops.

Prosperity

We want to boost our County’s economy by helping local farmers gain access to the growing market for GMO-free food, and by minimizing the risk of organic farmers losing their certifications.

Protection

We want to prevent the potentially devastating and irreversible effects that new GMOs could have on local ecosystems.[6]

According to the GMO Free Humboldt committee website:[2]

This ordinance will help protect our organic farmers from the risk of losing their certifications due to genetic contamination. It will also help ensure that all of our farmers can have access to the growing market for GMO-free products. Although GMO products represent only a small amount of the county’s agriculture, GMO corn kernels or other GMO seeds can be unintentionally carried from field to field in farm equipment or spread by pollination.[6]

Schaser, a spokesman for GMO Free Humboldt, said, ”I’m not opposed to biotech. My big push is the question, ‘Is [a GMO ban] in our best interest for Humboldt County’s economic development?’”

He also pointed to the success of local, organic farmers for whom it is important to be able to guarantee the GMO free status of their products, as their clients are willing to pay more for GMO free and organic foods. Schaser said that the sale of local organic products totaled $44 million in 2011. He also indicated that it was becoming more and more difficult for farmers to find non-GMO seeds every year.[2]

Rick Littlefield, owner of Eureka Natural Foods, said, ”This initiative will really give a boost to our local food system and our local economy. Organic, natural, non-GMO - these are really key selling points for local farmers and producers marketing their products both here in Humboldt and beyond the redwood curtain. They command a premium and help our local businesses survive and thrive.”[3]

Reportedly, GMO corn or other GMO seeds can be easily spread from field to field through pollination and shared farm equipment. The genetic modification in use creates plants that are resistant to glyphosate, commonly sold as "Roundup" and used to kill weeds, allowing fields of crops to be sprayed with the herbicide without damaging the productive plants. Schaser said that tiny amounts of chemicals, although not harming the genetically modified plants, do remain in the cells of the plants and are ingested by animals and humans who eat the crops. Moreover, although glyphosate is thought to be harmful only to plants and not humans, some studies allegedly show long-term toxic effects to beneficial bacteria in the human body helpful for digestion, absorption of nutrients and resistance to infections.[1]

Opposition

Opponents

Arguments against

During the county supervisor meeting on May 20, John Vevoda, a dairy operator, complained that activists such as the ones behind the anti-GMO initiative were responsible for crippling the farming industry through attacking progress through misinformation, bad science and emotional manipulation. Blaming these activists, he said, “My toolbox keeps shrinking."[9]

At the same meeting, Yana Valachovic of the University of California Cooperative Extension told supervisors that the ban could prevent scientific advances that would be extremely valuable to the farming and agriculture industry in Humboldt County. Specifically, Valachovic said that genetic engineering could help solve the problem of Sudden Oak Death. Valachovic asked, “Are people more concerned about the risks or are they more hopeful about the opportunities?"[9]

Path to the ballot

See also: Laws governing local ballot measures in California

The Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt needed only 4,387 valid signatures to qualify its initiative for a voter decision, but leaders of the committee hoped to collect between 8,000 and 10,000 signatures before Earth Day on April 22. They succeeded in submitting over 8,500 signatures during the last weeks of April 2014. The county elections office certified that the petitioners had collected more than a sufficient number of valid signatures, leaving county supervisors with the option of enacting the ordinance themselves or putting the initiative before voters.[3][1][4]

On the same night - May 20 - Jackson County electors approved their anti-gmo initiative, Humboldt County Supervisors a few hundred miles south unanimously voted to allow voters to decide the issue under the name Measure P.[9]

The county supervisors meeting featured arguments from both sides. There were supporters who wanted the supervisors to simply enact the ordinance, saving the county an expensive election and saving initiative proponents an expensive campaign battle. While some supporters were confident they would have the support of voters, others were also concerned that huge spending from corporate interests might convince voters to reject the measure. Opponents of the initiative argued that the supervisors should let the voters decide the issue since it was such a contentious topic that divided even the local farmers. John Vevoda, a dairy operator, complained that activists such as the ones behind the anti-GMO initiative were responsible for crippling the farming industry through misinformation, bad science and emotional manipulation. Blaming these activists, he said, “My toolbox keeps shrinking." Yana Valachovic of the University of California Cooperative Extension told supervisors that the ban could prevent scientific advances that would be extremely valuable to the farming and agriculture industry in Humboldt County. Specifically, Valachovic said that genetic engineering could help solve the problem of Sudden Oak Death. Valachovic asked, “Are people more concerned about the risks or are they more hopeful about the opportunities?" She ultimately stated, "Our office’s advice is to put that question to the voters.”[9]

Similar measures

See also: Local GMO on the ballot

Local bans

Approveda Jackson County Genetically Modified Organism Ban, Measure 15-119 (May 2014)
Approveda Josephine County Genetically Modified Organism Ban, Measure 17-58 (May 2014)

Statewide labeling measures

Defeatedd California Proposition 37, Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food (2012)
Defeatedd Oregon Labeling of Genetically-Engineered Foods, Measure 27 (2002)
Defeatedd Washington Mandatory Labeling of Genetically Engineered Food Measure, Initiative 522 (2013)


See also

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