GMO ban supporters file lawsuit / Lawmaker wants to nullify ban (9/9/2005)

1.GMO [ban] supporters file lawsuit over ballot wording
2.Lawmaker wants to nullify altered crop ban
3.Debate heats up over county GMO initiative
4.Nationwide Rally Behind "The Future of Food"

1.GMO [ban] supporters file lawsuit over ballot wording
Argus Courier, September 7, 2005

Citing problems with the Sonoma County auditor-controller's impact analysis and the opposition's argument in the ballot pamphlet, supporters of Measure M, a ballot initiative seeking to prevent agricultural and environmental contamination from genetically engineered organisms, filed a lawsuit in Sonoma County Superior Court on Friday.

"The (Sonoma County) Farm Bureau has had their facts wrong all along, so their ballot statement was no surprise," said Dave Henson, the main author of the measure, and executive director of Occidental Arts & Ecology Center.

Proponents of the measure, which will appear on the Nov. 8 ballot, want to halt printing of the ballot measure until the language is revised. The first ballot pamphlets are scheduled to be distributed to registered absentee voters on Oct. 10.

Opponents of the ballot pamphlet previously filed a lawsuit, objecting to the language used in the proponents' ballot statement.

"My study shows that planting of GMO corn, soybeans and cotton has led to a net 122-million-pound increase in pesticide use over the nine years from 1996 through 2004," Benbrook said.

Henson objected to opponents' claim that every major farming organization in Sonoma County opposes the ordinance.

"Two of measure M's sponsors are California Certified Organic Farmers and the Community Alliance with Family Farmers, both long-standing farming organization in Sonoma County," he said. "Both are filing declarations in court to say they're behind us."

The petition also wants to eliminate the opposition's claim that initiative writers did not consult with local agricultural leaders.

"I met with more than 20 leaders in Sonoma County agriculture, including the agricultural commissioner and the heads of at least six grape growers associations," Henson said. "I made major revisions based on their input."

The proponents' suit also claims that there is false and misleading language in the fiscal impact analysis.

"It's grossly exaggerated. All of these projected are based on a misreading of the initiative and the law involved, and a misunderstanding of the basic science involved. We explained in a public meeting six months ago specifically why these statements are false, so I can't understand why we are still hearing these claims," Henson said.

Lowell Finley, an attorney for supporters of the initiative, feels that laws have been violated.

"This is a clear case of both the county and the opposition violating the law," he said. "Voters rely on the ballot information. According to the elections code, it must be truthful and accurate. Unfortunately, both the fiscal impact analysis and opposition ballot argument are not."

2.Lawmaker wants to nullify altered crop ban
Marin Independent Journal, 8 Sep 2005

A Central California legislator is pursuing a bill in the waning hours of the 2005 state legislative session that would nullify Marin's voter-approved ban on crops that include genetically modified organisms.

Sen. Dean Florez, D-Bakersfield, this week revived a bill attacking GMO bans in place in Marin, Mendocino and Trinity counties, as well as the cities of Arcata and Point Arena.

The bill, which Florez first introduced in June, would affect Sonoma County's Nov. 8 ballot measure to establish a genetically modified crop ban, and a proposed ordinance prohibiting biotech crops in Lake County.

The 2005 state legislative session ends tomorrow.

"Both the state and the federal governments have done virtually nothing to protect communities from the release of GMOs, which, once released, cannot be contained," said Mark Squire, of GMO Free Marin, which led passage of Measure B last year banning the biotech crops. "These GMOs can result in long-term dangers to health, small farms and the environment."

Squire and other Marin leaders are asking residents to contact Senate president pro tem Don Perata and Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, to urge them to block Florez's bill.

"It's important to let (Perata) know we are watching and we expect him to do the right thing by ensuring that local rights with respect to this critical issue are preserved," Squire said.

Florez, who amended the bill Saturday, could not be reached for comment yesterday. It was not immediately clear when the bill would be heard in the Senate.

Dave Kranz, a spokesman for the California Farm Bureau Federation, said he thought it was a two-year bill that wouldn't be acted upon during the current session.

3.Debate heats up over county GMO initiative
ARGUS-COURIER, August 31, 2005

The two groups, firmly planted on opposite sides of a rural Sonoma County fence, each depict themselves as dedicated friends of "the people" seeking to boost agricultural production, the economy, health and human rights, and often portray their opponents as ignorant, self-serving rascals whose scare tactics leave people shaking in their boots.

Actually, both groups have done extensive research and are working around the clock to spread their viewpoints to Petalumans and other county residents on a highly charged issue that they agree has extraordinary short- and long-term implications.

Underlying these general similarities, however, lie extremely different perspectives on an ordinance that seeks to prevent agricultural and environmental contamination from genetically engineered (transgenic) organisms -- plants, animals or microorganisms whose genetic code has been altered to give them characteristics that they naturally don't have.

Although much of the general public still is unfamiliar with the GMO debate, it has become one of the hottest squabbles in recent memory, sometimes bitterly dividing communities and even households. Several countries, including Australia, Brazil, China, the 25 nations of the European Union, Indonesia, Japan, Mexico, Russia and South Korea, already have legal bans or restrictions on the planting of transgenic crops. Marin and Mendocino counties recently passed similar ordinances, while several other California counties rejected them.

"Sonoma County needs to pass this initiative because the federal and state governments are asleep at the wheel in regulating GMOs," Henson said. "Contaminating the genetic source of food products threatens food security, and by comparison dwarves other environmental threats."

GE foods were introduced into the United States in the mid-1990s. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled that these foods are "substantially equivalent" to other foods, but many government scientists caution that the genetic engineering process is unpredictable and could present new hazards to human health and the environment.

"I do not contend that all genetic technologies are bad, or that they all lead to a threat of ecological or agricultural contamination," he said. "Much of the research into transgenic technologies is very exciting, and may offer great potential to farmers and others around the globe.

"However, the current GE crops being grown -- mainly corn, canola, soy and cotton -- have, in fact, proven to be seriously harmful to our U.S. agricultural economy, to our farmers' rights and to our natural ecosystems almost everywhere they are grown."

Henson feels that without regulations, farmers' rights are violated because GE crops from neighboring farms will contaminate other farmers' crops and seed stacks through pollen or seeds brought by wind, winter, animals, birds, insects and trucks and farm machinery.

"Farms from miles away can be affected," he said.

Advocates claim that people's health could be impaired by inhaling GE pollen, eating GE plants and being exposed to toxic herbicides and pesticides that are used to kill new "super weeds" and "super bugs" that emerge as farm pests evolve resistance to GE crops.

"We would have herbicide-tolerant super weeds growing by the side of the road in Petaluma and other places. This initiative isn't just about agricultural crops," Henson said.

He contends that the initiative would help protect Sonoma County's ecosystems from irreversible genetic contamination by GE plants, fish and trees.

"From an ecological perspective, genetic engineering can be disastrous. It boggles the mind to think about the consequences, because it could impact all domestic food products. Some back-crossing of DNA from genetically engineered crops to native relatives already has occurred in corn, cotton and canola," he said.

Henson emphasizes the possible long-term risks of using transgenic organisms.

"Once they enter the environment, there's no turning back because they start spreading and contaminating other crops and wild plants," he said, adding that Monsanto and the handful of other chemical companies creating GE products have been driven by greed rather than public welfare.

Lex McCorvey, the executive director of the Sonoma County Farm Bureau and the Sonoma County Family Farmers Alliance, which was created to defeat the initiative, is on the other side of the big fence from Henson, and it's clear that their ideas haven't cross-pollinated.

"After a lengthy analysis, the SCFB believes that the benefits of genetic engineering far outweigh any of the perceived risks," he said. "It will benefit the local agriculture, environment, economy and health care."

He contends that the initiative would stifle the agricultural industry, and that local farms could suffer a competitive disadvantage.

"In agriculture, people need to deal with many outside influences, and any effort we can make that allows them the tools they need to stay in business is positive," he said. "Also, we haven't found any negative long-term ramifications to consuming genetically engineered products. Companies need to go through an eight-to-12-year regulatory process before these products are approved."

McCorvey feels that the county's grape industry would be at a competitive disadvantage if it couldn't use a disease-resistant vine stock being developed and that dairies would suffer because they wouldn't be able to grow their own genetically modified silage.

"We have a lot of dairy farms in Petaluma, and this initiative could be very damaging to them," he said.

McCorvey also feels that genetic engineering can help, rather than harm, the environment.

"I haven't seen any evidence that it will harm ecosystems," he said. "I'm more concerned with deforestation and how it can destroy redwood trees. We need to find new ways to protect the integrity of ecosystems.

"Jonas Salk wouldn't have developed a polio vaccine if people were prevented from doing something unless it has been conclusively proven without exception."

While supporters of the initiative claim that all enforcement costs would be paid by violators, McCorvey estimates that it would be difficult to enforce, and could cost around $250,000 annually to implement. He also criticizes proponents' claim that the initiative allows for medical research in a contained environment.

"Most communities require only a level-1 laboratory. A contained environment is a level-3 laboratory, and no biotech company would want to build one here when it isn't required anywhere else in the world," he said.

Despite the strong disagreements, Henson and McCorvey share one common view.

Many people don't understand the impact that the initiative will have, and need to become better informed, they both said, still standing on opposite sides of the fence.

(Contact Dan Johnson at [email protected])

4.Activist Groups Nationwide Rally Behind "The Future of Food"
Film Begins National Theatrical Run As Debate on Genetically Engineered Food Grows
"If you eat food, you need to see The Future of Food." - Newstarget.com
"There's a stunning revelation in almost every scene. Grade: A." - David Sterritt, Christian Science Monitor

LOS ANGELES - September 2 - The Future of Food, a feature documentary by Deborah Koons Garcia, offers a startling look at the changes happening in our food system today. For the first time, a feature film takes an in-depth look at the takeover of our food supply by multinational corporations and the widespread advent of unlabeled, patented, and unregulated genetically modified crops and foods. The film will premiere in New York at Film Forum on September 14 and widen thereafter.

The film has been utilized around the world as a key anti-GMO (genetically modified organisms) activist tool by grassroots organizations such as the Organic Consumers Association, The Center for Food Safety and The Campaign. Ronnie Cummins, author of Genetically Engineered Food: A Self-Defense Guide for Consumers and Director of the Organic Consumers Association calls The Future of Food "the most powerful documentary we have ever used in educating consumers." The film was a key part of the success of passing Measure H in 2004 in Mendocino County, California, which was one of the first local initiatives in the country to ban the planting of GMO crops.

Most Americans are unaware that GMO crops are now growing on well over 100 million acres of America's farmlands. An estimated 80% of all soy, over 35% of all corn, 75% of all cotton and most canola in the marketplace are now genetically engineered. Of these crops, an estimated 80% are now used for animal feed. The other 20% of GMO crops turn up on America's supermarket shelves in everything from corn tortillas, to snack foods that contain soy lecithin, canola oil, and corn syrup. These genetically engineered organisms have found their way into consumer foods like milk and other dairy products with the introduction of Bovine Growth Hormone, another widely prevalent GMO from the agribusiness biotech giant, Monsanto.

National organic standards from the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture do not permit crops containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to be certified organic -- and certified organic foods are soaring in popularity as the last bastion of GMO-free eating. The issues at stake in the race to protect our food system are numerous.

*Labeling is a key issue: The United States and Canada are the only industrialized countries in the world that do not yet have labeling either in place or underway, while the European Union and 40 other countries around the world already do.

*Pre-emptive legislation: Monsanto and the American Farm Bureau have been behind "pre-emption laws" in 14 states. Often referred to as the "Monsanto Law," they are intended to prevent local counties and townships from banning the growing of genetically engineered crops and animals.

*GMO pollution: Biotech companies are rushing recklessly ahead in planting new crops, such as genetically engineered alfalfa and bio-pharmaceutical crops, even though they are well aware they cannot control genetic pollution.

News updates: For more information on these and other timely issues related to GMO farming and food, visit the Organic Consumers Association, www.organicconsumers.org/gelink.html

In cities across the country, events such as speakers' panels on topics such as genetics, patenting and the future of organics will be organized to support the opening of the film. In conjunction with the September release of the film in New York, healthy food organizations such as GRACE, Slow Food, Just Food, NYSAGE, Consumers Union, the Center for Food Safety and local CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture initiatives), will introduce the film and facilitate discussions after selected screenings. In the East Village in New York, Bluestockings Bookstore will host a series of after-screening discussion cafes where audience members will be invited to participate in discussions about the issues raised in the film, and to find out how they can participate locally.

The award-winning documentary will premiere at Film Forum in New York on September 14. Following the premiere, the film will widen to cities across the nation including Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Berkeley (CA), Boston, Seattle, Denver, Boulder and Chicago. Distribution will be handled by Cinema Libre Studio.

Editors and Producers: For a screener copy of the film and press materials please email Mary Keeler at [email protected]; phone (818) 349-8822. High resolution, downloadable images can be found at: http://www.thefutureoffood.com/media. Details on theatres can be found below.

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