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More on New Biotech Crops Moratorium in Santa Cruz, California

Ecological Farming Association

406 Main Street Ste. 31
Watsonville CA 95076
ph. 831-763-2111 
fax. 831-763-2112

Santa Cruz -- On June 6th, The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to support the adoption of a Precautionary Moratorium on the planting of GE crops in the county as recommended by the GE Subcommittee of the Public Health Commission in a briefing made public last week.  Santa Cruz County attorneys have been instructed to draft language for the ordinance to enact restrictions on GE crops immediately.

"In light of what has been researched and found to be true about GE crops, the adoption of a precautionary moratorium is a conservative and restrained response," said Kristin Rosenow, Executive Director of the Watsonville-based Ecological Farming Association.

The GE Subcommittee, made up of a broad spectrum of community members including the county agriculture commissioner, Farm Bureau members, organic farmers, local food activists, and the director of the county Health Service Agency, among others, 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.  Based on their research, they voted to recommend a Precautionary Moratorium to county supervisors.

The subcommittee's conclusions include:

§   No long-term human health testing or assessments have been done on GE foods, so no claims can be made about the safety of GE
§   Health risks of GE crops include allergens, toxicity, carcinogens, altered fertility, increased antibiotic resistance, novel infectious diseases and adverse impacts on the human immune and endocrine systems
§   Pharmaceutical crops, plants used to produce components of pharmaceutical drugs, are grown in open-air trials, which can lead to contamination of food crop plants with GE toxins unsafe for human consumption
§   A federal audit found that the USDA is not following its own limited standards for these crops
§   California has no structure for regulating GE crops

"The Santa Cruz GE Subcommittee conducted a thorough analysis of this issue and found that the state and federal governments have really dropped the ball with regard to oversight of GE crops. This lack of oversight is what convinced the Santa Cruz County supervisors to unanimously approve the subcommittee's recommendations," said Lisa Bunin, a community participant on the subcommittee.  

"What legacy will we leave behind for our children and grandchildren?" asked Rosenow.  "The decisions that we make now about genetic engineering in food crops will have permanent consequences on our local food production system and our families."

The Ecological Farming Association (EFA) is a 26 year-old Watsonville-based non-profit that is dedicated to educating farmers, policy makers and the public about practical and economically-viable techniques of ecological agriculture.  EFA supports a vision for our food system where strengthening soils, protecting air and water, and encouraging diverse ecosystems and economics are all part of producing healthful food.

1.  GE Subcommittee Recommends a Precautionary Moratorium

 The GE Subcommittee recommends that the County Board of Supervisors add an addendum to Chapter 7.30 of the Santa Cruz County Code that would establish a Precautionary Moratorium on the growing of GE crops in Santa Cruz County. The recommended Precautionary Moratorium is consistent with Chapter 7.30 (.090), which states that the Chapter will be reviewed annually.

Conditions that Must be Met to Lift the Precautionary Moratorium on GE Crops

The Precautionary Moratorium on the planting and production of GE crops in Santa Cruz County will be lifted when the following conditions are met:

The State of California implements and enforces its own regulatory system that addresses the concerns and meets all of the following requirements set forth by Santa Cruz County's GE Subcommittee of the Public Health Commission.

1.      Field trials of genetically engineered crops are contained to prevent contamination of organic and non-GE crops and weedy relatives.

2.      Growing of genetically engineered pharmaceuticals and industrial compounds shall be done in state or federally licensed medical research institutions, medical laboratories, or medical manufacturing facilities engaged in a licensed medical production, and medical research involving genetically modified organisms provided such activities are conducted under secure, enclosed indoor laboratory conditions, with utmost precautions to prevent release of genetically modified organisms into the outside environment.

3.      Liability regulations are promulgated that protect organic and conventional farmers and gardeners from contamination by genetically engineered crops, where the financial costs of contamination are borne by the producer of genetically engineered seeds and, only if negligence is found, by the grower of the genetically engineered crops.

4.      GE seeds and root-stock shall be labeled so that farmers and gardeners can choose whether or not they want to grow GE crops.

5.      The types and location of the GE crops currently being grown and tested in Santa Cruz County shall be communicated to the Agricultural Commissioner and available to the public upon request.

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