Locals gather to draft county-wide GMO ban

Catherine Wong


Around three-dozen locals met at the Bayside Grange Wednesday evening to discuss a ban on genetically modified products in Humboldt County with the hope of getting an initiative on the November 2014 ballot.

"I was lucky enough to have grown up in a manner where we ate a lot of eco-groovy hippie food, and I tried to raise my kids and grandkids that way," Redway resident Lois Cordova said. "It's just that nowadays a lot of things I thought were safe apparently weren't."

Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, generally refer to products genetically spliced to grow with new characteristics, such as increased size or insect resistance. According to the Food and Drug Administration website, GMOs were introduced into our food supply in the 1990s.

Proponents argue they are easier to grow, produce higher yields, need less pesticides and produce more nutrients.

According to the FDA website, the administration regulates GMOs to the same degree as traditionally grown produce. It states GMOs are generally equally nutritious, are not more likely to cause an allergic or toxic reaction and have been tested for long-term safety.

Cordova said all the FDA facts are lies. "The FDA doesn't want to accept other sources of science," she said. "Other countries are studying GMOs and finding different results."

Cordova, an organizer with GMO Free Humboldt, said Wednesday's meeting was primarily to discuss which direction those leading the movement should take the draft.

"The question is: should we copy a simple ban - like they did in Mendocino, Marin, Trinity and Monterey counties - or a more far-reaching Bill of Food Rights, where we assert our rights as Americans and community members to make our own decisions?" she said.

Cordova said an environmental legal defense agency has already agreed to work with the group to write the ban and defend it in court.

The 55-year-old said she favors a bill of rights so she, her three children and her two grandchildren will be able to shop and eat without worries.

However, the majority of attendees voted tentatively in favor of an initiative modeled on the other counties' simple ban, citing potential problems with addressing larger issues and saying they were still feeling the repercussions from the 2012 election.

In November, although 66.5 percent of Humboldt County voted in favor of Proposition 37, a ballot initiative that would require genetically modified products sold in California to be labeled as such. It was ultimately rejected by the rest of the state.

"Prop. 37 offered a lot of education," Cordova said.

Plans to draft a ban began in February, she said, but farmers were too busy in the spring to meet.

Redway resident Bud Rogers attended the meeting with two of his grandchildren and said, that as a pre-diabetic, he is "charged up and motivated" because of his three grandchildren.

"They're the reason I'm far, far away from my home today." The 64-year-old said he's known about GMOs for at least 12 years.

"I lost my appetite for a while when I found out," he said. "I am shocked by the degree of insinuation companies have when we're faced with the destruction of the food supply."


1. About 36 people discuss ways to prevent genetically modified organisms from being grown or raised in Humboldt County during a meeting at Bayside Grange last Wednesday evening.

2. Lois Cordova of Redway, center, talks about ways to prevent genetically modified organisms from being grown or raised in Humboldt County, not the sale of products containing them, as Bud Rogers, of Redway, left, and grandson Callean Rogers, age 6, sits next to her.