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GM rice saga continues in California

by Greg Massa
Colusa County, Calif. rice grower and biologist

(Saturday, Aug. 14, 2004 -- CropChoice guest commentary)--
Background: A proposed ban on genetically modified organisms is on the ballot in Butte County, California, which is a major rice producer. This ban is similar to the ban passed in Mendocino County this spring.

More background: The California Rice Commission is a quasi-governmental body made up of rice farmers and handlers that tackle issues related to rice in California. In 2000, the CRC wrote and passed through the CA legislature, AB 2622, the Rice Certification Act. This act established an advisory board to set terms and conditions for the introduction of "rice of commercial impact" to California. GM rice falls in this category. The 2622 board is who I and others were fighting with over Ventria Bioscience's pharmaceutical rice earlier this year.

Today's news: In a nearly unanimous vote, the California Rice Commission voted to approve a resolution stating their opposition to the proposed GMO ban in Butte County. The reason given by the lawyer (who attends every single meeting of the rice commission) was that the ban was a "threat" to AB 2622, because it would supercede the authority of the rice commission. There was a lot of misinformation presented at the meeting by representatives of the Butte County Farm Bureau, which also opposes the ban. Their main argument is that the ban does not specifically exclude mutagenesis as a tool of genetic engineering. Mutagenesis was used back in the 70's to develop short-stature rice varieties, which became the parents of our current varieties. Thus, they argue, no one will be able to grow medium grain Calrose rice in Butte County, because they all have an induced mutation in their DNA. However, the opponents of the ban always fail to acknowlege that mutagenesis does not appear in anyone's definition of genetic engineering, including the definition in the Federal Register.

In short, the CRC swallowed the misinformation hook, line and sinker, and abandoned growers once again. Now, they plan to use grower's money to embark upon an "education campaign", further spreading the lies.

This is why I'm running for a seat on the Rice Commission.

Greg Massa Massa Farms 530-519-8628 eatrice@princetonca.net