Bryn J. Robertson
Mad River Union
HUMBOLDT – The GMO Free Humboldt (GMOFH) group of local consumers, farmers and concerned individuals met again at the Bayside Grange Wednesday, Oct. 2, to discuss updates in their effort to ban cultivation of genetically modified food crops within county borders.
Pared down from the initial three dozen who met months ago to a dedicated core of 10 individuals, the group announced the solidification of a website, a bank account and local donations totaling several hundred dollars.
GMOFH has also drafted the ban’s language, a construction of carefully chosen wording including the why, how and what of the proposed legislation. It plans to submit the draft ban to the county this week.
While the group has declined the opportunity to publish the drafted language, it has made copies available to individual, local stakeholders including farmers and business owners for feedback.
One critique from a local farmer regarded enforcement of the ban should it pass and become law (when and if it makes the November, 2014 ballot). For answers, the group looked at Mendocino County, the first in the nation to pass a similar ban on GMOs within their legal borders.
Assistant Treasurer Colin Fiske explained that while the Mendocino ban does not include a community reporting method for breaches of the law, he believes the legality of the ban itself serves as a deterrent and moral obligation in and of itself.
“There isn’t an obvious enforcement mechanism,” Fiske said, in referring to the Humboldt ban. “But there should be a formal process for tipping.”
The Community Alliance with Family Farmers (CAFF), a nerve center for publically driven activity relating to the region’s food system, offered its input on genetically modified organisms. CAFF has long supported a moratorium on GMOs in Humboldt because of insufficient labeling and lack of objective research on the patent holder’s end, explained Regional Food Systems Manager Michelle Wyler.
The ban, Wyler believes, should be a community-driven change. “We believe that the farmers and citizens of Humboldt County should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to allow GMO crops, just as similar votes have been taken in other counties,” she said.
In addition to adjusting and finalizing the ban language for submission to the county, the group is also working to fundraise to cover the cost of filing the ban language, bank and post office fees and the cost of printing petitions. Included in the three-page petition is a summary, page for signatures and ban declaration at the bottom. The group hopes print more than 1,500 petitions to gather enough signatures and account for lost or misplaced copies.
The ban is not just about Humboldt, the group believes, but about creating a niche of GMO-free territory in Northern California. Mendocino, Marin and Trinity Counties have already passed bans similar to the proposed Humboldt ban.
“Is this ordinance going to solve GMO issues in Humboldt? No. It is not a silver bullet,” said Fiske. “The county only has jurisdiction over county lands. They can’t check every crop and truck that drives through.”