Wednesday, October 27, 2004

GMO ban on Nov. 2 ballots

When some voters go to the polls next Tuesday, they will decide whether to ban the growing of genetically modified crops in their counties. Voters in four California counties--Butte, Humboldt, Marin and San Luis Obispo--could follow Mendocino County which banned them in March. For the time being the momentum seems to be on the side of the anti-GMO forces. At least seven more California counties are looking into putting such a ban on the March 2005 ballot.

A conversation I had at the Organic Trade Association show in Chicago in May revealed a key turning point in the successful campaign to ban GMOs in Mendocino. Katrina Frey (who along with her husband owns Frey Vineyards, the largest completely organic winery in the United States) acted as treasurer for the group spearheading the drive. She told me that no local residents would take the pro-GMO side for a public debate sponsored by her group. So the organizers invited scientists from UC-Davis to argue the case for GMO crops.

When one audience member asked the scientists what their views were about genetically modified crops that produce pharmaceuticals (sometimes called biopharm crops), all of the scientists agreed that such crops should only be grown indoors inside of triple-locked facilities to prevent genetic contamination of regular food crops. Television and newspaper reporters highlighted the exchange in their coverage of the event.

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