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Fourth California County (Santa Cruz) Bans GMOs

Santa Cruz ­-- On June 20, Santa Cruz County Supervisors voted unanimously to adopt a precautionary moratorium on growing genetically engineered crops in the county.  The supervisors' action supports the recommendation of the GE Subcommittee of the Santa Cruz Public Health Commission, which spent more than 10 months researching and analyzing the health, environmental, economic and social risks associated with the growing of GE crops in the county

"You can't have read the report and not think that we're playing with fire in a way that is potentially incredibly harmful," said Supervisor Ellen Pirie (Second District) at the public hearing.

The Board received over 100 letters, e-mails, and phone calls in support of the GE Moratorium which makes it unlawful for any person to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow any genetically engineered crop and declares that any act in violation of this prohibition constitutes a public nuisance that may result in fines and/or county jail time.  The lack of opposition to the ordinance prompted Supervisor Mark Stone to remark that opposition to GE crops "appears not to be controversial in Santa Cruz."

"By forming the GE Subcommittee and thoroughly investigating this issue, the Santa Cruz Board of Supervisors has become more informed about this issue than the vast majority of Americans, including many policy makers that have allowed these crops to infiltrate our food and farming systems without our knowledge or consent," said Kristin Rosenow, Executive Director of the Ecological Farming Association, a Watsonville-based non-profit that promotes sustainable agriculture.  "The more that people learn about GE crops and foods, the more they oppose their unfettered release into our food supply and environment."

The Santa Cruz action comes just before a June 28 Assembly Agriculture Committee hearing of SB1056, a bill that would prohibit California counties, towns and cities from passing any local regulation on seeds and nursery plants.  The Santa Cruz Supervisors have already passed a resolution and sent a letter to Sacramento strongly opposing the bill.

At the June 20 hearing, the Santa Cruz supervisors also moved to send their Subcommittee report and their ordinance to the state legislature and as well as every county in California, in order to encourage statewide action similar to their own.

"We can keep our house clean, or we can try," said Supervisor Mark Stone (Fifth District), "but this needs to be addressed at state and national levels."

The Santa Cruz ordinance will be read a second time at an August 1 meeting and would go into effect on August 31, 2006.