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More News Coverage on Trinity County (CA) GMO Ban

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Tiny Calif. county bans biotech from borders

By Paul Elias, Associated Press
8/3/2004

SAN FRANCISCO - Officials in tiny Trinity County banned genetically modified
plants and animals from its borders in remote Northern California Tuesday,
becoming the second California county to do so this year.

The local law passed on a 3-1 vote and makes it a misdemeanor to grow or
raise genetically engineered plants and animals. But it's effect is more
symbolic than practical since Trinity County ranked 51st out of 58 counties
in farming output in 2002, according to the Trinity County Farm Bureau.

Timber accounts for nearly all the agriculture revenue in the county, which
has a population of 13,000. No trees are being genetically engineered on a
commercial scale, though several labs across the country are experimenting
with modified trees that grow faster, resist disease and could even serve as
pollution fighters.

Supporters of the new law, which takes effect next month, said they were
concerned that genetically engineered plants and animals could someday harm
their small farming industry through crossbreeding and other mixing of
conventional crops and biotech-produced plants.

Drew Franklin, who owns an organic food store in the county seat of
Weaverville, said supporters also fear that someone might release
genetically engineered salmon that could breed with conventional steelheads
in the Trinity River, a popular tourist destination.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any genetically
engineered fish for human consumption, though it is considering an
application for a salmon spliced with other fish genes to grow faster than
normal.

Trinity is second jurisdiction in the country and in California to ban
biotech crops and animals. Mendocino County voters passed similar
legislation earlier this year.

Voters in four other California counties - Butte, Humboldt, Marin and San
Luis Obispo - will be asked to cast ballots similar measures in November.
Proponents in several other counties are attempting to gather enough
signatures to force special elections on the issue early next year.

The Biotechnology Industry Organization, a Washington, D.C.-based trade
group, said such local measures are confusing and counter to federal
regulations.

"This kind of action denies farmers the choice to utilize the best tools for
their farming practices," said BIO spokeswoman Lisa Dry. "These crops are
regulated on the federal level by three government agencies to ensure their
safety for humans and the environment."

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Altered food not welcome
Trinity may ban engineered crops

By Alex Breitler, Record Searchlight
August 3, 2004

WEAVERVILLE -- Some Trinity County residents want to outlaw genetically
engineered crops and livestock, a symbolic move from a county that ranks
near the bottom in agricultural production in the state.

County officials have crafted an ordinance that would make it illegal to
cultivate, raise or grow any so-called "GE" organism.

The ordinance goes before county supervisors today on their consent agenda,
meaning it's considered a routine issue. The supervisors already voted
unanimously to introduce the ordinance, which warns that genetically
engineered products have developed with "precipitous speed" and entered the
marketplace before potential risks have been studied.

The ordinance would take effect 30 days after passage. Violators would be
guilty of a misdemeanor, with fines up to $5,000 per day.

Supporters said the regulation will send a message that Trinity County's
natural benefits go beyond the beautiful mountains and lakes for which it's
known.

"It's not particularly pertinent to our economy, but it is one more feather
in our cap for people looking to move to a natural, pristine environment,"
said Drew Franklin, owner of the Mountain Marketplace natural foods store.

Trinity County follows in the footsteps of Mendocino County, which voted to
ban altered crops in March. Mendocino was the first county in the country to
do so.

Today, more than a dozen California counties have launched similar
campaigns, according to the Organic Consumers Association. But Trinity
County may be the first to do so by a simple supervisors' vote.

Talk of an ordinance began shortly after Mendocino County's success, said
Franklin. Although crops are few and far between in Trinity County - it
ranked 56th in the state in 2001, yielding $2.1 million in agricultural
products - Franklin said the ordinance would also apply to trees and fish,
which the county does have in vast quantities.