The Sonoma County Transgenic Contamination Ordinance is a simple measure that will protect local farms, pastures, and cover crops from contamination by genetically engineered plant pollen by prohibiting the growing and raising of genetically engineered organisms in our county.
Genetically engineered organisms are transgenic, meaning that a plant or animal has had genes from a different species (plant, animal, bacteria or virus) artificially inserted into its DNA in a laboratory. This process does not occur in nature. Our ordinance does not prohibit traditional methods of plant breeding, such as grafting, hybridization, and selective breeding, which can and do take place in nature and are very different.
80% of Sonoma County dairies are organic. Their cows are required to eat organic (uncontaminated) feed and graze on unsprayed, non-GMO contaminated pastures. Passing this measure is critical to the long-term success of organic and non-GMO dairy farms in our county. Our ballot measure will protect all farmers growing non-genetically engineered crops and grasses because pollen cannot be contained, and genetically engineered plant pollen will eventually contaminate their farms.
As more countries ban the import of genetically engineered products or products containing them, GMO contamination of our local crops will become a greater local economic threat.
What this Measure Doesn’t Do:
Our ordinance contains three exemptions: it will not prevent the sale or purchase of genetically engineered animal feed or human food; will not deny licensed health care practitioners from providing diagnosis, care, or treatment to a human patient or animal (e.g. insulin or vaccines for animals); nor will it prevent research involving genetically engineered organisms in secure laboratory conditions where they cannot escape into the environment.
What Will this Measure Do:
It’s simple: this Measure will protect local family farms from GMO contamination, allowing them to continue to grow the great products they sell to local, national and international markets preserving Sonoma County’s agricultural heritage. That’s it.
What Are Genetically Engineered Foods (GMOs)?
Genetically engineered organisms are transgenic, meaning that a plant or animal has had genes from a different species (plant, animal, bacteria or virus) artificially inserted into its DNA in a laboratory. Many GMO crops are designed to withstand herbicides, or even produce pesticides within the plant itself. This process does not occur in nature.
Genetic engineering is very different from traditional breeding techniques where related plants are cross-bred or grafted, sometimes over generations, in natural environments.
Why do we need to avoid growing GMOs in Sonoma County?
Sonoma County has a reputation for our pure agricultural products. Organic and traditional farms that are non-GMO represent a critical sector of our local economy, and they sell to growing markets both locally and internationally. Their businesses depend on their customers having confidence in what they are buying.
We need to keep genetically engineered pollen drift out of our local farms to protect this important sector of our local economy because there is no way for our organic and non-GMO farmers to protect their crops from contamination by genetically engineered crops in the same area. Genetically engineered pollen and seeds are carried by the wind and animals, and cannot be contained when growing in open fields.
GMO contamination in other regions has resulted in millions of dollars in lost export revenue to local farmers. And, organic farmers, by law, cannot sell their products as organic if they are contaminated by genetically engineered crops.
This article, from July 29, 2016, highlights a recent example of the economic threat posed by GMO crops: GMO wheat turns up in Washington state, may hurt US trade
Don't genetically engineered crops feed more people?
Genetically engineered crops produce more herbicide use, not more food. Comparisons of GMO and non-GMO corn crops by University of Wisconsin researchers over 20 years showed that while some crops showed small yield increases, others did not. A Purdue University study showed genetically engineered soy produced 12-20% less than the same non-GMO varieties in the same area.
Doesn't the science say that GMOs are safe?
While companies that make genetically engineered products like to claim that there is consensus that they are “safe,” many scientists question this assertion, or strongly disagree. Most developed nations do not consider GMOs to be safe. In fact, more than 60 countries, including all of the EU, require labeling and about 58% of these countries have growing restrictions or bans.
Right now, we simply don’t know what the long-term consequences will be to the food supply, or our health, from splicing the genes of entirely foreign material into the food we eat. In the meantime, organic and traditional methods of farming are producing strong yields, and non-GMO, research using techniques to increase yields continue to be developed.
Where else are genetically engineered crops prohibited?
Over 35 countries worldwide, counties in other states, and Marin, Mendocino, Trinity, Humboldt, and Santa Cruz counties in California have passed similar bans to prohibit growing genetically engineered crops. This Measure would close this gap between the counties north and south of Sonoma:
As GMOs are increasingly prohibited in other places, the greater threat these crops pose to our local economy. Our local farmers will not be able to sell genetically contaminated crops to customers who demand non-GMO.
What are the costs to the County if this passes?
The experience in other counties that have passed very similar Measures is that it has not resulted in any added costs to counties or taxpayers.
Don't farmers need genetically engineered plants to fight pests and protect their crops? What about wine?
Non- GMO solutions exist that are frequently more effective, without the added liability of lost markets. The most promising current research for eliminating one of the worst grape diseases does not involve genetic engineering. After ten years of research using traditional techniques, 15 Pierce's Disease resistant cultivars and rootstock are in the final testing stages.
Who is endorsing this campaign?
Hundreds of local farmers, businesses, community leaders, and local citizens are coming together to pass this grassroots effort to protect our family farms.
Who opposes this effort and why?
Opposition to GMO regulations—not surprisingly—is overwhelmingly from chemical manufacturers who create genetically engineered organisms and the pesticides that many of these crops are designed to use.
Unfortunately, in the local efforts to protect family farms from GMO’s, many farm bureau organizations choose to side with Big Agriculture, whose interests are very different than those of many local family farmers.
Chemical companies have spent millions to defeat attempts to ban genetically engineered crops, and we expect them to fund opposition locally. However, they have been beaten before, and people in our community will look to others they know and trust for the facts- which is why we need volunteers willing to get the word out.