Hopefully, more places in the U.S. will follow suite.
Thursday, March 04, 2004
By Carey Gillam, Reuters
KANSAS CITY, Missouri Opponents of genetically modified foods celebrated a historic victory Wednesday after voters approved a measure to make Mendocino County, California, the first in the United States to ban genetically modified crops and animals.
The ban was approved despite strong opposition from biotech companies including Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co., which have successfully defeated similar measures elsewhere around the United States.
"We won! We beat the biotech bullies," Laura Hamburg, spokesperson for the "Yes on Measure H" campaign, said on Wednesday. "The people emerged as victorious. We're sending Monsanto and the rest of the biotech corporate club packing in Mendocino County."
The measure bans the planting of biotech crops and the raising of livestock that have been genetically altered. Supporters said the designation as a biotech-free county should make products grown there more marketable, particularly to Europe where anti-biotech sentiment is strong.
Biotech proponents, who spent more than $600,000 to try to defeat the measure compared with about $80,000 raised by its supporters, said they were evaluating how to respond, possibly including legal action.
"We are concerned about the precedent-setting nature of this vote and the message it sends," said Allan Noe, a spokesman for Croplife America, which represents the interests of an array of agricultural and biotech companies.
Noe said passage of the measure was a "short-sighted move," as technology in the pipeline could be beneficial to the county's grape-growers.
But Hamburg said the 80,000 residents in the northern California county, including about 50,000 voters, are dedicated to preserving the purity of the vineyards and other agricultural resources there.
"We're part of a growing grass-roots movement of people all over the world standing up to the biotech industry," said Hamburg.
Indeed, drives similar to Mendocino's effort are being planned in other California counties, and a bill is pending in Vermont that would place a two-year moratorium on planting and growing genetically modified crops.
In North Dakota, where Monsanto is planning to roll out the world's first genetically altered wheat, opponents are renewing efforts to at least temporarily prohibit the biotech crop.
Two years ago, consumer groups in Oregon tried to pass a measure requiring labeling of genetically modified foods, but lost after a coalition of biotech companies, including Monsanto, spent some $5.5 million to kill the initiative.
The vote in California comes amid widespread concerns globally about the genetic modification of crops.
Last week, countries across Asia, Africa, Europe and most of Latin America agreed to tighter rules governing trade in gene-modified seeds, over the opposition of the United States.
The United States has steadfastly defended the spread of biotech crops and has pushed a WTO complaint against the European Union for keeping its borders closed to the altered foods. Last month, the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Economic and Business Affairs launched a Web site dedicated to biotech crop development information.
Biotech crop critics say the government is putting corporate interests ahead of the public interest.
They say the technology has not been fully tested to determine if it will cause health problems or irreversible harm to the environment. They also say it does little to address world hunger and health problems and offers only minimal benefits to some farmers, while contaminating conventional and organic crops.
I don't understand why people think it's necessary to alter our natural food sources, especially not knowing the health risk associated with it. This is great news! I, too, hope that other states and counties will follow.
This genetic modification is similar to the fertilizer and bug-spraying industries that started up in the '60s without taking a second look at the consequences. We need to preserve our earth in as natural of a state as possible.
I'm not willing to be someone's guinea pig to see what effects this genetically-smetically stuff has on humans and animals.
Yeah, what vegetarian really wants to eat thier veggies that have animal genes inserted into them? Vegetarians the world over should be disgusted by GMO crops. How can people be vegetarian eating crops genetically modified with rat genes and such? I am glad we have the option to buy Non-GMO food. At the same time, I think ALL GMO food needs to be banned. The flesh eaters always try to sneak their animal products into the food supply and even go as far as manipulating the natural process of plants to include animals in them. This needs to stop.
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