GMO Free Humboldt’s Draft Ordinance

Note: Below are three items.

1. A recent request to the GMO Free Humboldt group for a copy of the draft ordinance it has been working on was declined with the Oct. 3 letter below, headlined "Not ready for publication."

2. The group has been circulating the draft among selected individuals and agencies, with a cover letter seen below under the headline, "Letter to stakeholders."

3. The GMO Free Humboldt draft ordinance, under the headline "GMO Free Humboldt Draft Ordinance." Note that it is a draft only – a non-final work in progress. The group plans to submit a finalized version for placement on the Nov., 2014 ballot. – Ed.

Not ready for publication

Thanks for your interest in our initiative and our draft ordinance.  We have been striving to develop this ordinance in an open, transparent, and participatory manner, and we certainly appreciate any opportunity to bring attention to the ordinance and the process.  In fact, at one point, we considered the possibility of publishing our draft ordinance, as you're suggesting, in a bid to gather more feedback from interested stakeholders.
In the end, however, we decided that publishing a draft - which is still subject to change - would generate more confusion than clarity.  We were concerned that, no matter how clearly it was presented as a draft, some readers would judge it a final product.  Furthermore, we foresaw that in the future, when the ordinance is actually on the ballot, some voters would go looking for the language, find the archived draft and fail to realize it was not the final product.
For these reasons, we decided that a better approach to gathering input on the draft was to give it directly to stakeholders, along with a clear explanation and solicitation of input.  We are in the process of doing that now.Therefore, we would appreciate it if you simply referred interested readers to us to obtain a copy of the draft (rather than publishing it).
Our official email address is[email protected], and our website is  Until next Friday (10/11), we are more than happy to provide the draft to those of your readers with any special interest, concern or expertise in the subject, and we will gladly consider any comments or concerns they may have and answer any questions.  (We are constrained by the election timeline, and after next Friday, we will have to stop taking comments so that we can review those we have received and make any appropriate changes before filing the ordinance with the County.)

Please don't hesitate to let us know if you have any questions.  Also, our media coordinator, Bill Schaser (who is copied on this email) is always happy to give an interview or provide a statement if requested.

Thanks again,
Colin Fiske

Assistant Treasurer, Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt


Letter to stakeholders

September 20, 2013

Dear Stakeholder:

Several months ago, a group of Humboldt County residents came together with the common goal of protecting our local farmers, our community and our environment by prohibiting the cultivation and production of GMOs in Humboldt County.  Our shared motivations are simple:

To ensure fairness by allowing our county’s farmers and gardeners who choose not to plant GMO varieties to avoid the genetic contamination of their crops which would otherwise occur through no fault of their own.

To contribute to our county’s prosperity by ensuring our organic farmers can maintain their certifications and ensuring access for all our farmers to the growing markets for GMO-free food products.

To protect our local environment from the potentially devastating and irreversible effects of genetic contamination or invasion of ecosystems by GMOs.

With the assistance of knowledgeable attorneys, we have now drafted an ordinance to accomplish our goal.  As written, this ordinance does the following:

Prohibits the cultivation, propagation, raising or growing of GMOs in the County.

GMO Free Humboldt logoProvides a one-year grace period for anyone who may currently be growing GMOs.

Provides due process for anyone accused or suspected of violating the ordinance.

Requires that the County correct any ordinance violations which are discovered, confirmed and not corrected by the violator after an opportunity to do so.

Specifically exempts (does not affect) the sale of human food and animal feed, the provision of medical care, and any research contained within a laboratory.

We intend to put this ordinance on the ballot in November 2014.  Before we file our proposed ordinance with the County and begin collecting signatures, however, we felt that it was important for us to gather input on our proposal from local stakeholders.

We have conducted our work to date as publicly and transparently as possible.  However, we know that many local groups and individuals remain unaware of our efforts, or have otherwise been unable to participate.  Therefore, we are taking this opportunity to ask for your input.

Attached is a copy of our proposed ordinance.  If you are interested, we request that you read it and let us know what you think by sending an email to  HYPERLINK "mailto:[email protected]" [email protected]   We welcome any comments or suggestions, and we will do our best to answer any questions and address any concerns you may have.  Unfortunately, however, we only have a limited time before we will have to finalize the ordinance language.  Therefore, we will not be able to accept any comments after Friday, October 11.

In addition to your comments, if you support our efforts, we would be extremely grateful to accept your endorsement or donation.  Currently, we request that donations be made by check, made out to the Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt and sent to us at P.O. Box 5145, Arcata, CA 95518.  For any donation over $25, please be sure that the donor’s name, address, phone number, employer and occupation are clearly indicated on the check.

Finally, we’d like you to know that we’re interested in hearing from as wide a range of stakeholders as possible.  Therefore, we encourage you to share this letter and the attached draft ordinance with any other groups or individuals you think appropriate.

Thank you in advance for your participation in this important process.  We look forward to hearing what you have to say!


Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt

 HYPERLINK "mailto:[email protected]" [email protected]

P.O. Box 5145

Arcata, CA 95518

Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt

Fairness. Prosperity. Protection.


GMO Free Humboldt Draft Ordinance


Section 1 – Title

This ordinance shall be known as the Humboldt County Genetic Contamination Prevention Ordinance.

Section 2 – Findings and Purpose

(a) The People of the County of Humboldt, desiring to protect our agricultural and natural resource industries, our natural environment, the private property rights of our citizens, and the health, safety and welfare of our people, deem it advisable and appropriate to restrict the propagation, cultivation, raising and growing of genetically engineered crops, livestock, and other organisms in the County.

(b) Genetically engineered organisms and products are being developed with precipitous speed, and have been introduced into the marketplace before the potential risks and long-term health and environmental effects of these organisms and products have been adequately studied. (c) It is undeniable that genetically engineered organisms have the potential to contaminate other organisms, both cultivated and wild, through normal reproductive processes. In the case of crops and other plants, such contamination can occur at a great distance through crosspollination. Such contamination becomes virtually certain once the introduction of genetically engineered organisms is widespread, and once it occurs is irreversible.

(d) Many companies and markets do not accept genetically engineered food products. Therefore, the danger of contaminating and thereby reducing the value of neighboring crops by genetically engineered crops creates a serious economic threat to Humboldt County farmers. Conversely, minimizing the risk of such contamination can provide our farmers with a valuable marketing tool for their products.

(e) Organic agriculture is a vital and growing industry in Humboldt County. As of 2011, 19% of the total value of the County’s agricultural products was attributable to organic agriculture. Furthermore, the organic dairy market is growing at 9% per year nationally, and Humboldt County has made a particular niche for itself in organic dairy production. Organic farmers are prohibited from using genetically engineered products. Nevertheless, the risk of contamination can erode public confidence in organic products, significantly undermining the job-creating, economy-boosting growth of the organic market.

(f) Contamination and potential contamination by genetically engineered crops threatens generations of seed-saving and selection of diverse, locally adapted varieties by Humboldt County farmers and gardeners. Furthermore, the ownership of many genetically engineered traits by private entities means that such contamination may create a threatening and onerous legal situation for affected farmers and gardeners, through no fault of their own.

(g) The cultivation of genetically engineered crops to date has had a serious negative impact on the natural environment, in part because the vast majority of such crops are designed to withstand herbicide use. This has promoted indiscriminate herbicide use, causing an additional 527 million pounds of additional herbicides to be applied to our nation’s farmland.

(h) Other impacts on our natural environment from genetically engineered organisms, their production, and contamination from such are unpredictable, potentially serious, ultimately uncontrollable, and have received little study.

(i) The impacts of the direct introduction into Humboldt County of genetically engineered organisms such as trees or fishes, or contamination by the same, would be unknowable in advance. However, such introduction or contamination would have the potential to seriously imperil local ecosystems, to threaten traditional ways of life in our rural county, and to undermine critical local industries including forestry, fisheries, and tourism.

(j) Recognizing the serious risks inherent to the introduction and use of genetically engineered organisms, many countries and regions around the world have prohibited or strictly regulated their cultivation, use and/or importation. In the absence of such appropriate, effective regulation in California or the broader United States, many local governments in our region have acted to restrict or prohibit the growing of genetically engineered organisms within their borders. Such local governments include the Counties of Mendocino, Marin, Trinity and Santa Cruz, and the City of Arcata.

(k) For these reasons, the People of Humboldt County find that the propagation, cultivation, raising or growing of genetically engineered organisms in the County is not consistent with proper and accepted agricultural customs and standards and constitutes a public nuisance. Furthermore, because the risk of genetic contamination or ecosystem invasion increases the longer a genetically engineered organism remains in an uncontrolled environment, the People find that the public nuisance caused by the propagation, cultivation, raising or growing of genetically engineered organisms can only be remedied by means of the summary abatement procedures set forth under Humboldt County Code Section 351-1.2, as set forth below.

Section 3 – Definitions

“Commissioner” means the Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner.

“DNA” means deoxyribonucleic acid, the material naturally found within living cells which contains the genetic code and transmits hereditary patterns.

“Genetic engineering” means altering or amending the genetic material of an organism through the application of: (a) in vitro nucleic acid techniques, which include but are not limited to recombinant DNA techniques, direct injection of nucleic acids into cells or organelles, encapsulation, gene deletion and doubling; or (b) methods of fusing cells beyond the taxonomic family that overcome natural physiological reproductive or recombinant barriers, and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection such as conjugation, transduction and hybridization.

“In vitro nucleic acid techniques” include, but are not limited to, recombinant DNA or RNA techniques that use vector systems and techniques involving the direct introduction into organisms of

hereditary material prepared outside the organisms, such as micro-injection, macro-injection, chemoporation, electroporation, micro-encapsulation, and liposome fusion.

“Organism” means any biological entity capable of replication, reproduction or transferring of genetic material, exclusive of human beings and human fetuses.

“Genetically engineered organism” means an organism, or the offspring of an organism, the DNA of which has been altered or amended through genetic engineering. Such organisms are also sometimes referred to as “genetically modified organisms” or “GMOs.” For the purposes of this definition, an animal which has not itself been genetically engineered, regardless of whether such animal has been fed or injected with any food or drug that has been produced through means of genetic engineering, shall not be considered genetically engineered.

Section 4 – Prohibitions

It is unlawful for any person, partnership, corporation, firm or entity of any kind to propagate, cultivate, raise or grow genetically engineered organisms in the County. Any act in violation of this provision is declared to constitute a public nuisance.

Section 5 – Exemptions

(a) Nothing in this Ordinance shall make it unlawful for:

(1) any person or other legal entity in the County to purchase, sell, or distribute genetically engineered human food or animal feed; (2) any licensed health care practitioner to provide any diagnosis, care or treatment to any human patient; or

(3) any research institutions, laboratories or manufacturing facilities in the County to conduct research involving genetically engineered organisms whose reproduction in the environment can be physically contained. Such research activities must be conducted under secure, enclosed indoor laboratory conditions, with utmost precautions to prevent release of genetically engineered organisms into the outside environment.

Section 6 – Effective Date and Transitional Period

(a) This Ordinance shall take effect immediately upon approval by the voters of Humboldt County, except as set forth here and below.

(b) Any person or other legal entity who is already propagating, cultivating, raising or growing genetically engineered organisms in the County on or before the date this Ordinance is approved by the voters of Humboldt County shall be permitted to maintain such organisms until January 1, 2016. As of that date, any person or other legal entity who has continued propagating, cultivating, raising or growing genetically engineered organisms in the County during this transitional period shall be required to destroy and safely dispose of, or remove completely and permanently from the County, any remaining genetically engineered organisms.

(c) None of the provisions of this Ordinance shall be construed to permit any person or other legal entity who is not already propagating, cultivating, raising or growing genetically engineered organisms in the County to begin to do so after this Ordinance takes effect.

(d) None of the provisions of the Ordinance shall be construed to permit any person or other legal entity who is already propagating, cultivating, raising or growing genetically engineered organisms in the County to propagate, cultivate, raise or grow any genetically engineered organisms not already living and established in the County, or otherwise to begin any new activity prohibited by Section (4) of this Ordinance, after it takes effect.

Section 7 – Enforcement

(a) The Commissioner shall be the official charged with enforcement of this Ordinance and may exercise such powers as may be necessary or convenient to carry out and effectuate the purposes and provisions of this Ordinance. However, the Commissioner may request enforcement assistance or advice from other County officials. The Commissioner may also request that the Board of Supervisors direct any other County department or official to enforce this Ordinance in any case or set of cases where such action may be necessary or appropriate.

(b) The Commissioner shall create and provide for a procedure for any person to report any known or suspected violation of this Ordinance.

(c) Upon the receipt of any report described in Section 7(b), or upon the receipt of any other information relevant to the enforcement of this Ordinance, the Commissioner shall immediately

notify any person or other legal entity that may be in violation of this Ordinance pursuant to Humboldt County Code Section 351-12.

(d) Any person or other legal entity who receives such notice described in Section 7(c) of this Ordinance shall have thirty (30) days to respond to such notification with evidence that such

person or entity is not in violation of this Ordinance, or to destroy such genetically engineered organisms as they are cultivating, propagating, raising or growing in violation of this Ordinance or remove them completely and permanently from the County and provide evidence of such destruction or removal.

(e) Upon receipt of any evidence submitted pursuant to Section 7(d), or thirty (30) days after the notice described in Section 7(c), whichever comes first, the Commissioner shall review such evidence and any other relevant evidence. Within fifteen (15) days of commencing such review, the Commissioner shall determine if the person or entity is in violation of this Ordinance.

(f) Any violation of this Ordinance shall constitute a public nuisance. Any finding of continuing violation of this Ordinance by the Commissioner shall also constitute a finding of immediate

threat to public health and safety, and the Commissioner shall immediately order summary abatement as set forth in Humboldt County Code Section 351-1.2 in order to destroy or permanently and completely remove any such genetically engineered organisms.

(g) The provisions of this Ordinance are cumulative, and nothing in this Ordinance affects any other remedies any individual or government entity may have against any person resulting from a violation of this Ordinance.

(h) The Commissioner shall submit an annual report to the Board containing a brief description of all complaints received and enforcement actions taken under this Ordinance, if any, along with any other relevant information or analysis the Commissioner may choose, at his or her discretion, to include. A copy of such report shall be posted on the County Department of Agriculture’s official website.

Section 8 – Severability

The provisions of this Ordinance are severable. If any provision of this Ordinance or its application is held invalid, that invalidity shall not affect other provisions or applications that can be given effect without the invalid provision or application.




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  4. Ian Ray said:

    Sure, but I’ve never heard of a cheese maker that produces this in house.

  5. Commentor12345 said:

    Reactionary – ok. But my reaction is to laws made from fear of the boogie man, from a complete lack of knowledge of the reality of topic, from trusting Natural News and Huffington Post rather than the National Academy of the Sciences. The law may pass as laws allowing slavery and forbidding interracial marriages did – it doesn’t mean the idea is a good one. It isn’t.

  6. Commentor12345 said:

    Made by taking the rennin-producing gene out of the animal cell’s DNA string and then inserting into the bacteria, yeast, or mold host cell’s DNA string, this type of microbial rennet was introduced in 1990. Once inserted, the newly placed gene initiates the production of the chymosin enzyme within the host. This is cultivated and fermented. The result is an inexpensive harvest of real chymosin. This is seen as an improvement on the original microbial rennet as it is real chymosin and not a mold or yeast-based substitute. Moreover, it can be economically produced in unlimited supply and addresses some of the concerns regarding the bitterness in aged cheeses. The procedure is not new and is similar to that used to make many vaccines. But, there is more to consider.

    FPC rennet is a genetically modified organism (GMO). According to the culture companies, 90% of North American cheese is made with FPC rennet. But ingredient labels do not distinguish between this type of microbial rennet and the original non-GMO type. And the fact that use of FPC-type microbial rennet is not labeled a GMO leaves those who oppose GMOs in the dark when it comes to choosing cheese.

    In addition, further confusion and debate arises over the differences between GMO products versus genetically engineered products as the latter elicits deeper concerns from those opposed to this type of science. While FPC rennet is GMO, it is not, technically speaking, genetically engineered, because the DNA taken from the animal cell and inserted into the DNA string of bacterium or mold is not changed. Genetic engineering actually modifies the specific gene responsible for a particular function in order to improve its action. In other words, it takes messing with genes to another, deeper level, like playing with the shape of the Lego block itself, not just with the order of their assembly.

    In the end, what this means is that most cheese in North America is made from vegetarian-friendly but animal-origin, GMO-derived FPC rennet.

  7. Kevpod said:

    Kevin here with a note to commenters – so far we’re allowing anonymous comments. That will change if things get too personal.

    Do try and stick to the issues. Thanks.

  8. Ian Ray said:

    “Commenter12345”, there are no currently-approved modified yeasts for cheese production, so we can be fairly sure that this doesn’t affect cheese. However, as I pointed out, there are FDA-approved winemaking species and beer/wine producers have a keen interest in how this technology evolves.

  9. Ian Ray said:

    Anonyous voter person, the draft says “organisms”, there is no “as I understand it.” Mendocino specifically excluded microorganisms so as not to hinder winemakers.

  10. voter said:

    Section 2 (b) Genetically engineered organisms and products are being developed with precipitous speed, and have been introduced into the marketplace before the potential risks and long-term health and environmental effects of these organisms and products have been adequately studied. (c) It is undeniable that genetically engineered organisms have the potential to contaminate other organisms, both cultivated and wild, through normal reproductive processes. In the case of crops and other plants, such contamination can occur at a great distance through cross-pollination. Such contamination becomes virtually certain once the introduction of genetically engineered organisms is widespread, and once it occurs is irreversible.

  11. voter said:

    I think your reactionary response to this is odd. What’s your beef? Does it hit close to home for some reason? I guess your only option to keep GMO contamination in our communities will be to vote!

  12. Commentor12345 said:

    To really protect the organic farmers, should we also ban all non-organic farming, so as to reduce competition? Maybe we could really protect the organic farmers by simply banning non-organic food in the county. Or we could pass an excessive tax similar to the indoor grower tax, where people that shopped in stores other than the coop would be taxed 45% – that would get the undesirables out of our community.

    With regards to (f) Contamination and potential contamination by genetically engineered crops threatens generations of seed-saving and selection of diverse, locally adapted varieties by Humboldt County farmers and gardeners.
    – doesn’t anyone growing any kind plant threaten to ‘contaminate’ their neighbor’s plants of the same species? Maybe what we should do is to require a license to grow any plant, and have pollen police to make sure that no heirloom varieties are ever threatened by cross

    I don’t think you’ve checked in with Humboldt County’s biggest agricultural producers, by the way- who are by far the most sophisticated agricultural bio technologists in the county. They’ve been using advanced techniques for decades- are you sure this isn’t going to have major unintended consequences? When weed is legalized, maybe in 2014, is this going to cause big problems locally? Or is the idea just to persecute farmers growing corn for their cows? Ie we’re supposed to pass the law so we can feel Eco-groovy but then we won’t actually enforce it, except maybe for people we don’t like.

    Are you sure Cypress Grove isn’t using GMO microorganisms to make cheese? Better test everything, at county taxpayers expense, so we can be sure.

    You seem to think that GMO just means round-up ready. That’s the one in the news, but you are banning all kinds of things that haven’t been invented yet. To protect the organic farmers, apparently.

    Other than that, the only criticism I have of the wording is that you forgot to say that you’re doing this ‘for the children’s protection’.

  13. voter said:

    If your problem is with the organic standards I suggest you take it up with the FDA. As I understand it, this ordinance does not ban any food or beverage containing GMOs, only agricultural crops.

  14. Ian Ray said:

    To be more specific on yeasts, I mean organisms such as the malolactic bacteria yeast. These have not been produced in great enough volume to be anything other than impossible to find, but we will encounter more things like this in the future. As wine or beer production involving genetically-improved yeast does not pose any threat to lowering the consumer confidence in organic wines, why are they also prohibited? Is the rationale because of Section 2 (b): we don’t like scientific testing that doesn’t confirm our prejudice?

  15. voter said:

    I think that the chances of a crackdown on yeast is VERY unlikely considering it lives inside bottles and this measure only bans GMO crops, not food or beverages.

  16. Ian Ray said:

    How much of this organic animal feed that this measure says it will protect from contamination is grown in Humboldt? I’m not sure if Stanislaus has any such organic consumer confidence measures on the books for the organic dairy cow feed exported to us.

    Mendocino’s agricultural production has barely moved since they adopted a similar measure 9 years ago. If a crop ban is supposed to be a financial boon, wouldn’t this boon happen elsewhere after the catalyst was put into place?

    Mendocino did not include microorganisms specifically while the Humboldt measure makes no distinctions. Are we to expect the Commissioner is going to crack down on people with biotech yeast? Would it count as “growing” organisms in the case of wine imported with biotech yeast still living in it?

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