GMO Free Humboldt Advances Biotech Crop Ban

Participants in last Saturday's March Against Monsanto in Eureka. Photo by BCR | MRU

Participants in last Saturday's March Against Monsanto in Eureka. Photo by BCR | MRU

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.”



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  2. genuinefordparts said:

    Gee, you are just plain wrong and apparently have no understanding of what GMO means.

  3. jwdone said:

    GMO’s have been a part of agriculture since the late 1940’s. Plus environmental chemicals have altered plants and animals for many years. So how will boycotting GMO’s keep foods like tomatoes, milk cows and rice out of Humboldt County? All have been genetically altered. As has many more foods we already consume.

  4. Bryn Robertson said:

    Ian Ray: The GMO Free Humboldt group is working to get through all of the details of creating and submitting the ban for further review. Such details as the method of enforcement are tricky and will take time. As mentioned above, Mendocino County has been an example for the GMOFH group to analyze as it has moved beyond passing the ban to functioning cooperatively with minimal enforcement. It’s amazing what people can do when they work together, and I think that so far is worth recognizing. Thanks for your comment.

  5. voter said:

    Mr Ray, You are hilarious! How many people are growing GMOs here? They’re few and far between but genetic contamination is a real threat to our organic farms because a) pollen drift from corn, alfafa, and other crops can travel for miles especially up our wind tunnel coastal ag lands b) contamination would put organic farms out of business as their Organic Certification would be revoked. I hope this helps you to understand why this is an important issue.

  6. Ian Ray said:

    Just so we have this straight: the goals are to make certain plants illegal, start a system of snitching on neighbors, hope that moral obligation will persuade people, and coordinate with Trinity and Mendocino counties. Sounds like marijuana laws.

  7. Frank Jr said:

    We are no longer meeting at the grange, the October 2nd meeting and all future meetings are being held at the Arcata Coop Community Kitchen.

  8. Commentor12345 said:

    “We believe that the farmers and citizens of Humboldt County should be able to decide for themselves whether they want to allow GMO crops”,…..which is why we want to make it illegal to decide you want them, she explained.

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