GE Free New Zealand in Food & Environment, 4th  March 2004

US County Bans GE Crops

GE Free New Zealand in food and environment welcomes the action of voters in Mendocino County, California, who have resoundingly voted to keep GE out of their region. Concerns about long term effects of GE organisms (GEOs) and their ability to cross contaminate conventional food has forced a ban them being grown in Mendocino County, California, an area well known for its wineries. The decision is likely to further slow the year-on-year uptake of GE crops in the US which has fallen to a trickle, as more and more farmers and markets reject them.

Prior to the vote pro GE lobbyists from agribusiness, spent thousands of dollars and are considering appealing the decision as they fear fear that it will encourage others counties to ban GEO's around the USA. Mendicino county hopes to use their GE Free status to market their products as GE Free and claw back lost sales in the EU.

"Clearly the reason GE corn and soy are being grown widely across the USA and Argentina is down to the increasingly widespread contamination of seed stocks, such that it is now virtually impossible to source GE Free seed" said Claire Bleakley of GE Free (NZ) in food and environment. ´┐ŻNow that so many people in the US are questioning the safety of GEOs on human health and the environment, it will be a major step forward in trying to contain the GE menace."

Across the world there is growing resistance to governments who appear to be colluding with the biotech industry to force GE technology on the public. Local authorities however being in direct contact with communities are trying to protect their interests. For instance, the British government's push for GE release - against scientific evidence - looks like being stymied by Wales and Scotland who are refusing to be complicit in the move.

Recent floods in the lower North Island of New Zealand show that GEO's cannot be contained, as the whole region has been littered with sewage, leaf and seed debris. This should be a signal to New Zealand government that no GE release is made - intentionally or otherwise- into the environment.

The Mendocino vote is a great outcome for democracy and will be further inspiration to the many communities in New Zealand and around the world demanding GE Free-zones. 

Claire Bleakley (06) 3089842

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Mendocino County voters ban biotech crops
First county in U.S. to bar gene-altered farming
March 3, 2004

Mendocino County voters on Tuesday were the first in the nation to ban genetically engineered crops and animals. By a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, they approved Measure H, an initiative pushed by the county's organic farmers and one that has far greater symbolic impact than practical effect because such crops are not likely to be introduced in the county for years. Some of the nation's largest agricultural interests spent more than a half-million dollars in a bid to defeat the measure, fearing that it could become a precedent for other counties.

And that is likely to happen.

"Passage of Measure H i! s just the beginning. We're the first county, but the revolution is just starting," said Els Cooperrider, owner of a Ukiah  organic brew pub who spearheaded the campaign.

Groups in Sonoma and Humboldt counties already are preparing drives to qualify similar initiatives on the November ballot. Allen Henson of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center has said passage of Measure H will give Sonoma County activists incentive to develop a policy to keep out genetically engineered crops.

Cooperrider and Measure H supporters were jubilant Tuesday night, especially after having been outspent by a 7-1 margin in the most hotly contested initiative election in Mendocino County history.

All but two Fort Bragg precincts and about 3,000 absentee ballots, representing less than 2 percent of the vote, had been counted by 10 p.m. Tuesday.

The election drew statewide, national and even international attention, with reporters for major news media outlets on hand to witness the noisy Measure H victory celebration at the Cooperrider pub.
A consortium of agri-business interests called CropLife America waged a two-month campaign to defeat the measure. CropLife was joined by local and state Farm Bureau leaders and members of the county's agricultural establishment.

But their high-profile efforts weren't enough.

A coalition of organic grape growers, businesses and local political figures convinced voters that Mendocino should take a stand in the global debate over the adequacy of safeguards surrounding a fast-emerging biotechnology industry. A current void in state law allowed the issue to be placed before Mendocino voters.

"This is an issue that needs to be dealt with at the state, national or global level, but you have to start somewhere and that somewhere is Mendocino County," said Measure H supporter Art Harwood of Harwood Products.

Elizabeth Brazil, coordinator of the campaign to defeat Measure H, said Tuesday night that opponents were disappointed by the results. 
"Mendocino County is going to be harmed by this measure," Brazil said.

Brazil declined to speculate whether local opponents and CropLife are prepared to mount legal and legislative challenges to Measure H. Mendocino County voters in the 1970s adopted an initiative to ban aerial spraying of pesticides, but the state Legislature within two weeks stripped counties of that right.

Spokeswoman Laura Hamburg said supporters are prepared for any challenge. "We have had this ordinance reviewed by top lawyers, who say they're confident it will stand up to any challenge."

You can reach Staff Writer Mike Geniella at 462-6470 or

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