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Mendocino County bans biotech crops!!

Mendocino County votes to ban biotech crops

PAUL ELIAS
Associated Press
Wed, Mar. 03, 2004

UKIAH, Calif. AP) - Mendocino County voters approved the nation's first ban
Tuesday on the raising and keeping of genetically engineered crops or
animals.

The move represented a big black eye for the biotechnology industry, which
spent more than $500,000 to defeat the measure in a county of 47,000
registered voters.

"They had the money, we had the people," said Els Cooperrider, who led the
local ballot measure.

With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Measure H had support from 56
percent of voters in the area known for its wineries.

Opponents of the measure could not be immediately reached for comment. Their
campaign headquarters in Ukiah was vacant with a "for lease" sign on it.

Led by organic vintners and farmers, backers of the ban raised and spent
close to $100,000.

The ban will have little direct effect inside Mendocino County, since there
are no known genetically modified crops raised in the area.

But Mendocino County's organic growers said they would use the law as a
marketing tool, especially in Europe, where opposition to genetically
engineered foods is fierce.

The victory is also expected to embolden similar movements in neighboring
Northern California counties as well as elsewhere in the county.

The biotechnology industry may file a lawsuit trying to overturn the new
law. The industry argued that biotechnology regulation should be left to the
federal government, otherwise biotech companies will have to wade through a
hodgepodge of local laws.

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Mendocino County voters ban biotech crops
First county in U.S. to bar gene-altered farming

Santa Rosa Press Democrat
By MIKE GENIELLA

March 3, 2004

Mendocino County voters on Tuesday were the first in the nation to ban
genetically engineered crops and animals.

By a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, they approved Measure H, an
initiative pushed by the county's organic farmers and one that has far
greater symbolic impact than practical effect because such crops are not
likely to be introduced in the county for years.

Some of the nation's largest agricultural interests spent more than a
half-million dollars in a bid to defeat the measure, fearing that it could
become a precedent for other counties.

And that is likely to happen.

"Passage of Measure H is just the beginning. We're the first county, but the
revolution is just starting," said Els Cooperrider, owner of a Ukiah organic
brew pub who spearheaded the campaign.

Groups in Sonoma and Humboldt counties already are preparing drives to
qualify similar initiatives on the November ballot. Allen Henson of the
Occidental Arts and Ecology Center has said passage of Measure H will give
Sonoma County activists incentive to develop a policy to keep out
genetically engineered crops.

Cooperrider and Measure H supporters were jubilant Tuesday night, especially
after having been outspent by a 7-1 margin in the most hotly contested
initiative election in Mendocino County history.

All but two Fort Bragg precincts and about 3,000 absentee ballots,
representing less than 2 percent of the vote, had been counted by 10 p.m.
Tuesday.

The election drew statewide, national and even international attention, with
reporters for major news media outlets on hand to witness the noisy Measure
H victory celebration at the Cooperrider pub.

A consortium of agri-business interests called CropLife America waged a
two-month campaign to defeat the measure. CropLife was joined by local and
state Farm Bureau leaders and members of the county's agricultural
establishment.

But their high-profile efforts weren't enough.

A coalition of organic grape growers, businesses and local political figures
convinced voters that Mendocino should take a stand in the global debate
over the adequacy of safeguards surrounding a fast-emerging biotechnology
industry. A current void in state law allowed the issue to be placed before
Mendocino voters.

"This is an issue that needs to be dealt with at the state, national or
global level, but you have to start somewhere and that somewhere is
Mendocino County," said Measure H supporter Art Harwood of Harwood Products.

Elizabeth Brazil, coordinator of the campaign to defeat Measure H, said
Tuesday night that opponents were disappointed by the results.

"Mendocino County is going to be harmed by this measure," Brazil said.

Brazil declined to speculate whether local opponents and CropLife are
prepared to mount legal and legislative challenges to Measure H. Mendocino
County voters in the 1970s adopted an initiative to ban aerial spraying of
pesticides, but the state Legislature within two weeks stripped counties of
that right.

Spokeswoman Laura Hamburg said supporters are prepared for any challenge.
"We have had this ordinance reviewed by top lawyers, who say they're
confident it will stand up to any challenge."