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Trinity County California votes to ban biotech crops; Sonoma County GMO opponents want measure on March ballot

(Thursday, Aug. 5, 2004 -- CropChoice news) -- Trinity County, Calif. two days ago became second county in the nation to ban the production of genetically engineered (GE) crops and animals. By a vote of three to one, Trinity County Supervisors moved to ban GE crops and animals in order to protect Trinity's local economy, including its growing organic sector, and the environment. The decision came in the wake of a March 2 ballot victory by voters in another Northern California county, Mendocino, banning GE crops.

In November four more of California's 59 counties (Marin, Butte, Humboldt, and San Luis Obispo) will be voting on ballot measures to ban genetically engineered organisms (GMOs).


Sonoma County, Calif. genetic food measure proponents eye March ballot

August 3, 2004

Proponents of a measure to ban genetically engineered foods in Sonoma County say they will continue to collect signatures for a special election in March after county supervisors refused to place it on the November ballot.

The measure would prohibit cultivation of genetically engineered plant and animal food products in Sonoma County. Supporters say these products can contaminate other plants and animals through accidental cross-breeding and cross-pollination.

A spokesperson for the campaign, Daniel Solnit, said his group had originally planned to place the measure on the March 2006 ballot, but they were concerned that companies which sell genetically engineered seeds would beat them to the draw.

"We have reason to believe Monsanto and other companies will go to the state and try to sneak something through the Legislature without it going to the voters," Solnit said.

Four other counties -- Butte, San Luis Obispo, Marin and Humboldt -- have already qualified similar measures for the November ballot.

Proponents of the GE ban had collected 8,000 of the 29,000 signatures they need for a special election, when they brought the measure to county supervisors July 27. Solnit said they wanted to give the county a chance to save money by including it in a regular election.

A special election in March will cost about $500,000, but placing the measure on the ballot for a regular election would have cost less than $100,000.

"We went to the supervisors because we knew the county was in a fiscal crisis. We wanted to give them options," Solnit said.

West county supervisor Mike Reilly supported the measure, but it failed to garner support from the other supervisors. Mike Kerns, Valerie Brown and Paul Kelley rejected the plan, and Tim Smith was absent.

Solnit said his group would have begun its petition drive earlier, but it "decided it was more important to talk to all the stake holders first."

The measure's primary author, Dave Henson of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, spent several months talking with local farmers and ranchers to include their concerns in the document, according to Solnit.

The group has until the first week of January, 2005 to gather 29,000 valid signatures. It is looking for more volunteers, especially in the south county.

(Contact Lois Pearman at lpearlman@argauscourier.com)