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California: GMO Ban Efforts Start in Lake, Monterey Counties

Groups in Lake and Monterey counties are beginning to lay the groundwork for bans on genetically modified organisms.

Bans currently are in effect in Mendocino, Marin, Santa Cruz and Trinity counties and in the cities of Arcata and Point Arena.

Chuck March, executive director of Lake County Farm Bureau, said the Farm Bureau is opposed to any localized ordinance against genetically engineered crops, which they believe should be controlled at either the state or federal levels.

March said genetically modified organisms are "a tool and an option" for growers.

March and the University of California Cooperative Extension looked at the ordinance and it raised several issues.

In Lake County, the Coalition for Responsible Agriculture - a consortium of farmers, activists and organizations - is leading the effort to prevent cultivation of all genetically modified organisms, said attorney Steve Elias, who helped draft the proposed ordinance.

The group previously proposed a 30-day moratorium on Roundup Ready alfalfa in 2005, which was not approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Elias said the new proposal would make Lake County a genetically modified organism-free zone. Elias said the law would allow local farmers to create a GMO-free brand that will make the county unique.

The ordinance would also includes a 30-day jail sentence for anyone found guilty of growing genetically modified organisms.

March said the California Farm Bureau has been working with organic and environmental groups to address genetically modified organisms at the state level through Assemblyman Jared Huffman's bill, AB 541, now moving through Senate committees.

"It's very broad and vague and could cover even normal hybridization," March said of the proposal.

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