Ten years after legal flaws sent an anti-GMOs measure to a withering end at the ballot box, a new group is trying to bring the issue back before voters in November 2014. The Committee for GMO Free Humboldt met last week to gather final feedback before submitting the initiative to the county.
Committee for GMO Free Humboldt spokesman Bill Schaser said he hopes to create an economic advantage in California with GMO-free produce, adding that neighboring Mendocino and Trinity counties already have bans. He said a ban would lower the risk of contaminating non-GMO produce with GMO genetics through cross-pollination.
”The main point that I have is economic advantage,” Schaser said. “I see it in the big picture of an economic zone that is GMO-free.” Genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, generally refer to products genetically changed to produce new characteristics, such as increased size or insect resistance.
The committee’s current draft would make it a public nuisance to “propagate, cultivate, raise or grow” GMOs in the county. The proposed initiative also states that GMO products would still be legal to purchase, sell or conduct research on.
A similar measure in 2004 failed on election day after its authors pulled their support and urged a no vote due to language that called on the county agricultural commissioner to arrest anyone caught growing or possessing genetically modified seeds or crops.
”Under what authority would the Agricultural commissioner’s office conduct inspections and collect samples as part of an investigation?” he asked, adding that the “time frame for notification, investigation and determination that a violation has been committed ... is unreasonably short given the complexity of investigating and proving violations of an ordinance pertaining to genetic material.”
Schaser responded that violations would fall under the same laws for nuisance abatement, and evidence would be provided by the person making the complaint.
First District supervisor Rex Bohn said he has some questions about how a ban would impact ranchers and farmers.
”Scientifically speaking, there is just as much pro as there is con,” he said. “The big thing for our area is feed corn.” Bohn said Mendocino and Trinity counties have a different agricultural base than Humboldt.
”They’re not dairy counties,” he said. “I could probably count on one hand all the dairy farms in Trinity, and I know I can in Mendocino.”
Catherine Wong can be reached at 441-0514 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter and Tout @cmwong27.