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
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.
Assistant Treasurer, Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt
Letter to stakeholders
September 20, 2013
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.
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
P.O. Box 5145
Arcata, CA 95518
Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt
Fairness. Prosperity. Protection.
GMO Free Humboldt Draft Ordinance
THE PEOPLE OF THE COUNTY OF HUMBOLDT ORDAIN AS FOLLOWS:
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.