The Union’s view on the Arcata City Council race, Measures P and Z

The following reflects the Union’s positions on some of the choices on the Nov. 4 ballot:

Arcata City Council

Arcata voters have been well-served by Mayor Mark Wheetley. Wheetley has invaluable skills and experience, is well-connected around the region and state and is dedicated to Arcata. He deserves re-election for another four-year term.

Sofia Pereira represents the next generation of Arcata leadership. She has a consistent record of accomplishment and is well-prepared for a council seat. Her ideas about waste reduction and deepening Arcata’s alliances with Humboldt State and others are forward-thinking and realistic. It’s exciting to see this able person’s public service career taking off, and she deserves your vote.

Paul Pitino is a persistently constructive actor on and off the City Council, where he has previously served. He attends city meetings all the time as a citizen, promoting progressive projects such as the dog park and transportation safety. Energetic, full of ideas and positivity, we look forward to Pitino’s (re)election to the open two-year term.

Among the other four candidates are those with impressive energy and potential. Arcata will be fortunate if they continue to participate in city affairs, gain more experience and familiarity and try again next time.

  Measure P

Measure P is a well-intentioned initiative backed by activists who are, by their lights, fighting for Humboldt’s food security and independence. They mean well and their idealism is admirable, but Measure P is a counterproductive waste of energy and intentions. There are real, urgent problems which would benefit from that good effort.

New technology and procedures have made possible extraordinary gains in agricultural productivity and the nutritional content of crops over the past few centuries, and especially in recent decades. That’s progress, which, with a growing population, has never been more needed. It didn’t happen by mindlessly denying innovation.

Now, another progressive technique known as biotechnology is further expanding our ability to feed ourselves.

We’ve searched and searched for a reason to support Measure P, and found nothing. It’s become apparent by the shapeshifting, say-anything arguments in favor that its backers aren’t really clear on the concept either. If they have an evidence-based case, they’re hiding it under mountains of fearful conjecture.

You’ve recently read in these very pages that genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, are associated with all manner of menaces to health, the environment and the economy. GMOs, we’re told, endanger bees and babies, and are associated with infertility, autoimmune diseases, birth defects, mass suicides, increased pesticide use and contamination of organic crops via pollen drift. Even worse, when GMO pollen infects a neighboring family farm’s crop, Monsanto will then sue the family farmer for theft, doubly victimizing that family.

That’s all balderdash, as has been amply and repeatedly proven. The piling on of ever-more preposterous claims is what happens when there is no real argument for this prohibition.

In the final days before the election,  the message is, OK, never mind science, but be afraid anyway. Fear is the common theme in all the anti-GMO arguments. Fear helps push broader narratives, whether they really apply or not.

As the zany claims have dropped away, Measure P advocates have settled on the mom-and-apple-pie argument – we need this measure to protect farmers. That too, is without basis, precedent or backing by any evidence.

It’s a false choice between organic and conventional farming. Both are booming, and neither jeopardizes the other. We have choices.

Now we are asked to limit our choices and those of food producers by reclassifying farmers who use biotechnology as lawbreakers.

We are often presented with the argument from popularity that goes, “What about all the countries that have banned GMOs?” First, most haven’t. Some countries' politicians just haven’t approved them yet, out of the same fear mongering we’re experiencing here. We don’t need to buy into that baseless, destructive fear.

A more convincing argument from popularity might be the tens of thousands of farmers who voluntarily choose to use biotech. They aren’t doing so because it harms their businesses; who are we to dictate their choices?

There should be very solid evidence at hand before we criminalize farmers who use an approved, proven and productive technique, especially in the name of “fairness.”

The nightmare scenarios Measure P is supposed to prevent have never happened, anywhere. Any organic family farm losing its livelihood due to GMO contamination would obviously be intolerable. Had this imaginary tragedy ever played out in the real world, we’d know all the victims by their first names. They don’t exist.

Opposition to GMOs is cultural and tribal in nature, and not based on any true-life experience, science or reason. Measure P, which will probably ride into the law books on a tide of trumped-up fear, is another embarrassing attempt to override logic with legislation.

In 1897, an Indiana legislator tried to redefine pi as being 3.2 by force of law. Texas wants to install Creationism in its school textbooks. South Carolina has outlawed consideration of sea level rise in coastal planning.

Now, Humboldt is poised to join the ranks of the wrongheaded by outlawing a harmless, incremental technique for making crops more drought-, disease- and pest-resistant, productive and nutritious.

If you don’t like proprietary organisms, change patent law. If you don’t like corporations, outlaw corporate personhood and regulate these reckless entities. If you don’t like GMOs, go organic – it’s all labeled. But don’t turn farmers into crooks for no good reason.

Measure P won’t stop biotechnology, here or anywhere else. Federal law, which approves biotech, overrides local law and renders P legally incapable of standing up to any kind of court challenge.

Measure P does offer one crucial and defining choice – between making public policy based on fear, folklore and superstition, or science, information and reason. No on Measure P.

Measure Z

While Humboldt County has no shortage of thieves, criminal predators and assorted wingnuts, it has a dire shortage of peace officers to try to keep the crooks and creeps under control.

Burglars, major drug distributors and environment-shredders are no longer jailed. They are checked in and out, and are back doing what they do within hours. Meanwhile, scarce law enforcement resources mean fewer cops and longer response times.

Humboldt citizens must step up and provide adequate funding for law enforcement to maintain public safety.

The reason for the shortage is  simple – there’s not enough money.
Measure Z offers a relatively painless solution to get more funding. It’s a simple half cent sales tax increase. For every $100 you spend on taxable goods, you’ll have to pay an extra 50 cents. In the big picture, that’s chump change. But it adds up.

It’s estimated that the sales tax increase would generate $6 million a year, money that would be spent on public safety and essential services. It would be used to hire more deputies and more investigators. Money would also be provided to rural fire departments.

Vote yes on Measure Z and help improve public safety.



  1. Eric V. Kirk said:

    That’s a fairly typical ugly American response. The one thing you know about Uganda is Idi Amin. Always great to stereotype an entire country based on its past to make a point.

  2. Robert Eckart said:

    Ok, Idi Amin. I can see you know what you are talking about.

  3. siddiq2 said:

    2013 -2014 flax production in Canada 615 metric tons – average Canadian flax production over last 14 years 699 metric tons (Flax Council of Canada). I initially got the wrong ten year cycle – production doubled in 2005 then dropped back down (old data). I tried to delete that post because of the error – USDA allows a percentage of GM in their definition of organic but Europe does not. The ultimate point is that Europe’s 2010 rejection of Canadian flax is based on public hysteria not quality scientific analysis. The Jackson County farmer that plowed under his swiss chard seed because of very marginal pollen drift from a nearby beet field still could have sold his product as organic under USDA organic rules – he chose not to.

  4. Eric V. Kirk said:

    Well, I thought that only Sara Palin thought that Africa is a country. But Ugandan farmers have been pushing for approval of gmo bananas and cassavas, and it looks like they’re going to catch a break, which could make a huge difference for them. Uganda, unlike much of the “northern hemisphere” as it was proudly put, will not criminalize farmers. That’s a good thing.

  5. Robert Eckart said:

    Huh ?? Are you calling India, China and Africa first world countries ? Is a troll a Typical Troll when he has delivered 623 comments and none of them make sense to anyone but himself ?

  6. Robert Eckart said:

    Did you get your figures from Fox News ? The facts are not that the production collapsed – the value of the flax collapsed. The regulation came after the event which Mr. McHughen produced.

  7. Eric V. Kirk said:

    GMO products have been in distribution for four decades now. Can you point to any actual danger?

    But you are right that the fear and rejection of GMO’s is pretty much a first world phenomenon. The less fortunate countries can’t afford to reject technology which might actually strengthen and diversify their agriculture.

  8. siddiq2 said:

    It appears that Canadian production and export of flax has DOUBLED IN THE LAST 10 years in spite of fear based regulation and public hyperbole. How does Mr. Mchughen explain that

  9. Kevin Hoover said:

    Arguments from popularity are illogical and irrelevant. You could look it up. All those prohibitionists are acting out of poor understanding of the issue, I presume based on the fear that opponents fling around.

    If the further superfluous testing was done, there’s no indication that it would return results any different from all the previous testing that shows biotech safe and effective. The opponents would just find some new reason to disqualify the findings, and move on to some new artificial threshold. That’s been the pattern as all the previous wild claims have been debunked. Although this shiny new fear factor, an impending loss of democracy, is deeply unsettling. I guess that’s what was intended, though the mechanism by which this will happen remains unclear.

    Anyway, two things. Thanks to all the Measure P activists for their passion and genuine concern. And congratulations in advance on this measure passing.

  10. Robert Eckart said:

    I agree that the correct response is to alleviate an unfounded fear. There is no proof of safety, simply because MANDATORY STANDARIZED TESTING IS NOT DONE. This movement is not due to “some politicians’ failure to approve a perfectly safe product.” It arises from the undeniable fact the the industry giants have now moved into dangerous genetic transfer territory for which enforced testing does not exist, nor can these new varieties be stopped from spreading. Anyone with a brain, or a memory, or eyes to read the news can see that. The fact that several GMO crops are not allowed into most of the countries of the northern Hemisphere, as well as Mendocino, Trinity and Marin counties weighs heavily on the “false” side of your statement. Are you saying that everyone in Los Angeles is ignorant ? I am waiting for your “Karl Rove” moment of bullshit being called here, Kev – and soon.

  11. Kevin Hoover said:

    From what I can tell:
    1. There was no pollen drift. So for the umpteenth time, this is a link that doesn’t provide any evidence of the allegation.
    2. Again, they can’t sell their crop because of some politicians’ failure to approve a perfectly safe product.
    I argue that the correct response would be to alleviate the unfounded fear, not service it.

  12. Robert Eckart said:

    Nice dodge, Kev ! The problem is that farmers all over the U.S. and Canada cannot sell their crops into the world market, currently, due to contamination by the increased invasiveness and volunteerism of transgenic crops. Are you aware of this fact ? Ignorance is as the ignorant do.

  13. Kevin Hoover said:

    Right… but there was no pollen drift involved, right?
    Measure P wouldn’t do anything to stop someone passing out seeds, as far as I know.
    The politicians who succumb to fear – fear of food, fear of science, fear of whatever – are who I mentioned.
    More countries ban same-sex marriage than haven’t yet approved biotech. Shall we suppose no one should get married if their genders don’t line up with what some ignorant politician thinks?
    No, you don’t kow-tow to ignorance.

  14. Robert Eckart said:

    The Triffid GMO seed was designed and patented by Mr. McHughen. He, himself, allowed and promoted this contamination which RUINED the Canadian flax market for almost a decade. Dig deeper, Kevin, before you call other people illiterate. I am not “fearful”, which is the term you and Professor Wilson have picked up, – but I am cautious, since my research has revealed that there is NO PREMARKET TESTING of any GMO product. Until there is a law that requires these industry giants, who are known to have produced some of the craziest crap introduced to the natural world, to TEST in a standardized scientific way, this Prop P is the only answer. Democracy allows for change. When this ban becomes unneeded it can be voted out.

  15. Kevin Hoover said:

    Thanks Robert.
    Is there any information that the Triffid seed was released into the environment by pollen drift?
    From what I read, this guy was handing out packets of the seed after it was banned 13 years ago. That’s not pollen drift, which is at the core of the the Measure P argument.
    The real question is whether there’s any real reason for those European countries to ban this product, other than baseless fear.
    That point is made in the editorial. Why are we enslaved to scientifically illiterate politicians’ fears?

  16. Robert Eckart said:

    Kevin: Your coloring of the discussion of the Prop P question is exactly out of the industry play book. Word for word. You have not even shown the diligence to attend all the presentations at HSU by the well heeled and highly educated professionals who spoke to both sides of this issue. How can you claim to have “searched and searched” ? One of the main clues was in the history of a Mr. McHughen, who Professor Wilson brought in to argue against Prop P. Had you attended, it would not have been lost on you that THIS VERY PERSON ruined the entire flax market of Canada by introduction of his own “Triffid” GMO flax which spread contamination everywhere. Here is the thread:

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