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Measure M faces out-of-state opposition funding

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Measure M faces out-of-state opposition funding

Citizens for Healthy Farms and Families announced that Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, and duPont have arrived in Sonoma County to fight Measure M on the November 8 ballot. Measure M is a local ballot measure to prohibit growing GMO’s. 

“Just recently, the opposition was quoted as saying they weren’t planning to spend money against Measure M,” said Karen Hudson, Yes on M campaign manager. According to documents filed with the Sonoma County Clerk, these companies are funding a recently formed committee named ‘No on M- Sponsored and Opposed by farmers, ranchers, and agricultural technology companies’ and have reported receipt of over, $98,000 since October 10. The contribution reports can be viewed online, here:  Agro-chemical corporations wouldn’t be putting money in, if they didn’t have plans for Sonoma County. The fact is, more and more people want non-GMO food, and our local farms have a right to grow without contamination. It’s that simple.” 

These companies make genetically engineered seeds and the herbicides designed to be used with them. When grown in open fields, GMO crops present a contamination threat to non-GMO farms miles away. As new GMO crop varieties are approved for planting, local farmers, who are trying to meet the needs of consumers desiring non-GMO food, will face an even greater threat to their businesses. 80% of Sonoma County dairies are organic, which means that their cows cannot eat GMO contaminated grass.

“My right to grow non-GMO should not be threatened by someone else’s business practices that are harmful to mine. Millions of dollars in lost export revenue has occurred from GMO contamination,” said Joey Smith, owner/manager of Let’s Go Farm in Santa Rosa.  “Because people growing genetically engineered crops are not required to register, we don’t know exactly how many genetically engineered crops are growing here in Sonoma County.” he continued.  “We don’t want GMO crops proliferating here, so that’s why we are taking action. The Measure is carefully written to be fair to all farmers. Measure M is really about being proactive, just like the GMO growing bans in the five other CA counties.”

Chemical companies have spent money fighting similar battles in other communities that have had measures to prohibit growing GMO crops before voters. In Jackson County, Oregon, chemical companies spent nearly $1 million in 2014 against Measure 15-119. The ban, however, was approved by more than 65% of voters. “In 2014 when big chemical corporations poured a million dollars of outside money to oppose Jackson County’s GMO ban, local voters saw through the opposition’s political bull and rallied to support the genetically engineered crop ban that would protect family farms and the agricultural future of our valley. GMO crops and traditional crops can’t coexist.” said Elise Higley, Executive Director of Our Family Farms and Family Farmers

The Yes on M Committee is relying on the support of a broad list of endorsers, including: local farmers, dairy owners, farming organizations, vintners, business owners, newspapers, environmental organizations like the Sierra Club and Sonoma County Conservation Action; political groups like the local Democratic Party; former Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey; former State Senator and Supervisor Canddate Noreen Evans; former State Assemblywoman Mariko Yamada; 5th District Supervisor Candidate Lynda Hopkins a local organic farmer, local elected and community leaders from across Sonoma County and numerous residents.

The text of Measure M, a full list of endorsements, and more information can be found at:



Partial Response to UCCE Study-Sonoma County Transgenic Contamination Prevention Ordinance – Citizens for Healthy Farms and Families


Our ordinance contains the same definition of genetic engineering as was vetted by three lawyers, our County Agricultural Commissioner, and given to the County Supervisors in 2014. 

“Genetically engineered” means produced from an organism or organisms in which the genetic material has been changed through the application of:

1) In vitro nucleic acid techniques which include, but are not limited to, recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or ribonucleic acid (RNA), direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles, encapsulation, gene deletion, and doubling; or

2) Methods of fusing cells beyond the taxonomic family that overcome natural

physiological, reproductive, or recombination barriers, and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection such as conjugation, transduction, and hybridization.

UCCE The study states: “The modifier “but are not limited to” leaves the definition of which in vitro techniques are covered open-ended and subject to interpretation. 

Rebuttal: in the text of SB-1381 Food labeling: genetically engineered food.(2013-2014) the definition of genetic engineering states, “b) (1) “Genetically engineered” means produced from an organism or organisms in which the genetic material has been changed through the application of either of the following:

(A) (i) In vitro nucleic acid techniques, which include, but are not limited to, recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) or ribonucleic acid (RNA) direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles, encapsulation, gene deletion, and doubling.”

I believe this is the accepted and nationally used definition of genetic engineering.

UCCE: The study states that hybridization and grafting techniques may not be able to be used.

Rebuttal: Actually, Traditional breeding is not the same as genetic engineering. The ordinance states: “that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection”. Grafting is a traditional breeding practice, as are hybridization and selective breeding. None of which would be prohibited according to our definition of genetic engineering.   

UCCE:   The proposed ordinance expands the definition of “GMO” and will result in Sonoma County using a definition of GE that is substantially more restrictive than the definition used by the USDA. Under this definition all gardeners and growers in Sonoma County would be more restricted in what can be grown in other parts of California and the US. With the implementation of the ordinance, some currently used techniques of Sonoma County farmers would be prohibited going forward and local gardeners and growers could be civilly liable for growing plant varieties that their parents or grandparents were permitted to grow.  

Rebuttal:   Our ordinance only applies to the unincorporated areas because it is a county initiative and county initiatives concerning land use can not apply to incorporated areas that are under the jurisdiction of city councils.  Over 96% of the land in Sonoma County is in the unincorporated areas where the majority of farming takes place.  See Present Prohibitions below


Present Prohibitions: Agriculture Commissioners in the five counties that already have the same prohibition we are asking for have said that there have been no problems regarding their prohibitions on growing genetically engineered organisms since their prohibitions were implemented. 

#1 Our prohibition is the same as that in these five other California Counties- An initiative in CA can have one issue.  Citizens for Healthy Farms and Families’ Ballot Measure M states, “It is unlawful for any person, partnership, corporation, firm or entity of any kind to propagate, cultivate, raise or grow genetically engineered organisms in the County.”  CA initiatives are only allowed to have one issue.  This is our one issue. It will not do anything else.

Marin County, CA “[I]t is unlawful for any person or entity to cultivate, propagate, raise or grow genetically modified organisms in Marin County.” (2004)

Mendocino County, CA “[I]t shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow genetically modified organisms in Mendocino County.” County Code, Chapter 10A.15.

Santa Cruz County, CA “It is unlawful for any person to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow any genetically engineered crop.” County Code Title 7, Chapter 31 (Ordinance 4830).

Trinity County, CA “[I]t is unlawful for any person to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow genetically engineered organisms in Trinity County.” County Code, Chapter 8.25 (2004).

Humboldt County, CA “It is unlawful for any person, partnership, corporation, firm or entity of any kind to propagate, cultivate, raise or grow genetically engineered organisms in the County.” 

Why shouldn’t Sonoma County farmers have the same crop protections from genetically engineered plant pollen transfer, and crop contamination, that farmers have in these five counties?

UCCE:  Some new microbials could be prohibited. For example recombinant canary-pox vectored vaccines (which are used for prevention rather than the diagnosis, treatment or care of disease and so would not be exempted from the ordinance) are used to prevent West Nile for horses, and distemper and rabies in dogs 

Rebuttal: Definition of preventive care: “Medical care that seeks to prevent illnesses.”  Measure M, exemption #2 states that:  “Nothing in this Ordinance shall make it unlawful for: “ 2) any licensed health care practitioner to provide any diagnosis, care or treatment to any human patient or animal.”  It clearly states: “any care or treatment,” whether it is preventative or restorative. 


Prospective prohibitions

UCCE: And perhaps as concerning is the scope of the wording to cover future developments. Some emerging genetic engineering technologies have the potential to create novel plant varieties that are hard to distinguish genetically from plants produced through conventional breeding or processes that occur in nature. Genome/gene editing technologies can now be used to make a genetic change by substituting a single nucleotide in a specific gene; the same change can be made by a method that uses radiation or chemicals to induce mutations and then uses genomic screening to identify plants with the desired mutation – an approach that is considered to be conventional breeding by most national regulatory systems.

Genome editing could be used to target many different traits in agricultural breeding. Certainly, one can envision a new vine grape rootstock that is edited to resist pathogen(s). For example, it has already been used to produce genetically hornless Holstein dairy cattle and to generate pigs that show resilience to animal diseases such as Porcine Reproductive and Respiratory Syndrome (PRRS) virus, a particularly devastating disease of the global pork industry.

Gene editing has also been used in plant breeding to target inactivate the gene responsible for producing the enzyme polyphenoloxidase (PPO), which causes browning in some fruits when they are exposed to air.

In general, when one regulates or prohibits a process rather than a product, in a profession/discipline like plant breeding, arbitrary restrictions of the process will result in long-term limitations to innovation and prevent potentially useful genetically engineered products from being used in Sonoma County Agriculture. There are continuous efforts to improve the processes and the ordinance will result in long-term limitations on the ability to improve farming techniques to be more environmentally-friendly over time. The ordinance could result in Sonoma becoming a place that is more restrictive to both growers and home gardeners than other counties and states in the US.

Rebuttal:  Our 3rd exemption clearly states: Nothing in this ordinance shall make it unlawful for:

“3) any research institutions, laboratories or manufacturing facilities in the County to conduct research involving genetically engineered organisms whose reproduction in the environment can be physically contained. Such research activities must be conducted under secure, enclosed indoor laboratory conditions, with utmost precautions to prevent release of genetically engineered organisms into the outside environment”

Our ordinance allows research utilizing genetic engineering and allows doctors to prescribe treatments that might involve using genetically engineered vaccines, etc. for human and animal patients.

35 countries world wide ban growing GMOs, San Juan County in Washington, Jackson County in Oregon, Trinity, Humboldt, Mendocino, Marin, and Santa Cruz Counties all have  prohibitions on growing genetically engineered organisms in place with the same restrictions that are in our ordinance. 

As already stated:  Our ordinance can only apply to unincorporated areas and would not apply to those living in the incorporated areas, which are under city council jurisdiction.


UCCE III.  GMO Prohibitions State Wide – 

Rebuttal:  When contacted, the Agricultural Commissioners from the five California Counties with GMO growing regulations (Trinity, Humboldt, Mendocino, Santa Cruz, and Marin) all said that there have been no fiscal impacts within the county since the prohibition on growing and raising genetically engineered organisms has been in place.

IV. Regulatory Framework-In response to no safety problems-

UCCE:  “All three federal regulatory agencies that oversee GE crops have legal rights to demand immediate market removal of any product if valid scientific data show safety concerns for consumers or the environment.”

Rebuttal:  The IARC, an arm of the World Health Organization, classified glyphosate as a probable carcinogen for humans based on animal studies.   Genetically engineered corn, soy, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, and sorghum are engineered to tolerate the spraying of the herbicide Roundup, which contains the active ingredient glyphosate, Glyphosate is also systemic, an endocrine disruptor, and a chelator.  This probable carcinogen is being sprayed on plants in our food supply that are created to withstand its use. 

Doesn’t this qualify as a valid scientific concern?

Please also see the following rebuttal under NAS Page 6 

UCCE: Human Health – Genetically modified foods currently available on the international market have passed risk assessments and no adverse human health effects have been observed resulting from the consumption of such foods. Most recently the National Academies of Science (NAS) Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops: Past Experience and Future Prospects (2016)On the basis of its detailed examination of comparisons between currently commercialized GE and non-GE foods in compositional analysis, acute and chronic animal toxicity tests, long-term data on health of livestock fed GE foods, and epidemiological data, the committee concluded that no differences have been found that implicate a higher risk to human health safety from these GE foods than from their non-GE counterparts”. These findings agree with the findings of three reports of the National Research Council (NRC) committees (1989, 2000 and 2002). i concluded, “

The interested reader is referred to the comprehensive 2016 report of the National Academyi, as it contains a comprehensive literature review of the most current data and expert opinion regarding the use of GE in agricultural production systems and food.

The health concerns about the consumption of GE food, however, are not directly addressed by the Sonoma County Transgenic Contamination Prevention Ordinance which enacts a moratorium on growth and cultivation of genetically modified organisms, specifically GE/GM organisms.

Rebuttal:  Our ordinance deals with one issue as specified in the elections code and states: It is unlawful for any person, partnership, corporation, firm or entity of any kind to propagate, cultivate, raise or grow genetically engineered organisms in the County.

In Reference to the National Academy of Science (NAS) report:  Charles Benbrook former director of the National Academy of Sciences’ Board on Agriculture from 1984-1990 states:  Herbicide resistant crop technology has led to a 239 million kilogram (527 million pound) increase in herbicide use in the United States between 1996 and 2011.” Dr. Charles Benbrook, “Impacts of genetically engineered crops on pesticide use in the US—The first 16 years” October 2012,

Doesn’t this qualify as a valid scientific concern for both humans and the environment? 

Points not mentioned by the UCCE Study-

NAS Report on GMOs Gives Spin New Life and Pulls Too Many Punches By Chuck Benbrook

“To its credit, the report does a good job describing the problems and challenges that have arisen over the last 20 years in the wake of widespread adoption of GE crops. These include the emergence and spread of resistant weeds and insects, inadequate pre-approval safety testing, the U.S. government’s disjointed regulatory framework, loss of trust and confidence in the quality of U.S. food and rigor of U.S. regulation, rising costs on the farm for GE seed and associated pesticides, and the public health and environmental consequences of the intensification of herbicide use.”

“The actual content of the report, beyond the summary, deviates considerably from past NAS reports on the topic. It gives credence to many issues and problems largely dismissed or ignored in past NAS GE-related reports. It dispassionately explains why GE technology has, in general, not increased yields, and why GE crops are not “game changers” in the pursuit of global food security. And on some issues like trust in science and avoiding introduction of novel allergens in the food supply, the report is surprisingly forceful and its recommendations are right on target.” Charles Benbrook is an agricultural economist and former research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University. He currently serves on the USDA’s AC 21 Agricultural Biotechnology Advisory Committee. Benbrook holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Harvard University (1971), as well as an M.A. (1979) and a PhD (1980) in agricultural economics from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

IV. A  Review of the Ordinance It applies to prohibiting the cultivation, propagation, raising and growing of genetically engineered crops in our county   


 Section 3 – Findings, of the proposed ordinance lists fourteen (14) findings which are not entirely accurate and/or, a reasonable argument can be made for an opposite conclusion.


(a) “The rapid, long-term, and unregulated growth of commercial agricultural entities engaged in the cultivation and development of GE organisms threatens the stability and growth of Sonoma County's agricultural economy, the health of its citizens, and its environment.”


Genetically engineered crops in the United States are regulated more strictly than any other agricultural or food product in history. These products are not approved for commercialization until they have been proven to be safe for human consumption and safe for the environment by as many as three Federal agencies.

        In additional to the testing required by the government’s regulatory process, the safety of the commercialized genetically engineered crops has been thoroughly addressed by the international scientific community. The world’s top scientific authorities – such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the World Health Organization, the National Academies of Sciences, the American Medical Association and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, – just to name a few – have concluded that the commercialized genetically engineered and the foods produced from them pose no more risk to people than their conventional or organic counterparts1

Rebuttal: Safety Tests are not required within the FDA

The FDA regulates GM foods as part of the “coordinated framework” of federal agencies that also includes the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) and the United States Department of Agriculture (“USDA”).16 This framework, which has been the subject of critical analysis and calls for redesign,17 is available online18 and contains a searchable database that covers “genetically engineered crop plants intended for food or feed that have completed all recommended or required reviews.”19 The FDA policy (unchanged since 1992)20 places responsibility on the producer or manufacturer to assure the safety of the food, explicitly relying on the producer/manufacturer to do so: “Ultimately, it is the responsibility of the producer of a new food to evaluate the safety of the food and assure that the safety requirement of section 402(a)(1) of the act is met.”21 So it is the company, not any independent scientific review, or the FDA providing the research that is relied on to assert safety. FDA guidance to industry issued in 1997 covered voluntary “consultation procedures,” but still relied on the developer of the product to provide safety data.22 There is currently no regulatory scheme requiring GM food to be tested to see whether it is safe for humans to eat.2

        According to the FDA Policy,  GMOs are substantially equivalent to conventional plants. It does appear that they did not listen to their own scientists. In a February 1992 memo, Louis J. Pribyl, Ph.D., a scientist in the FDA’s Microbiology Group, critiqued a draft of the policy by writing, “There is a profound difference between the types of unexpected effects from traditional breeding and genetic engineering which is just glanced over in this document.” Dr. Pribyl added that “several aspects of gene insertion may be more hazardous than traditional plant crossbreeding.”

In a January 1992 memo, Linda Kahl, Ph.D., an FDA compliance officer, emphasized the lack of scientific data to recognize the safety of GM foods. “Are we asking the scientific experts to generate the basis for this policy statement in the absence of any data?” she asked. “There is no data that could quantify risk.”

E.J. Matthews, Ph.D., of the FDA’s Toxicology group, warned in an October 1991 memo, “genetically modified plants could also contain unexpected high concentrations of plant toxicants.”

Fact:  Genetically engineered corn is engineered to produce the insecticide BT in every cell of the plant, and BT corn plants are registered with the EPA as an insecticide.

How can that be considered substantially equivalent to traditional corn? 

Our Ordinance:  b) “Sonoma County residents have the right to decide that the risks of cultivating GE crops are unacceptable and to take action to prohibit such crops.”

UCCE: Prohibiting the cultivation of GE crops removes the farmer’s fundamental right to choose the way he/she farms. 

Rebuttal:   Growing  GE crops takes away the farmer’s fundamental right to choose to grow the organic or non-GMO conventional crops that they choose without the threat of contamination. Co-existence regulations call for non-GMO farmers to leave 660 foot to a mile buffer zones next to GE fields, which may cut the chance of contamination. Although, studies show that contamination still takes place.  It also takes away the right of the non-GMO farmers to use 66o feet of the land they purchased for growing.  Bees can transfer pollen more than a mile from its source.  660 feet is much less than a mile. Pine pollen can travel up to 1800 miles.

OSGATA et al vs. Monsanto  - 300,000 individuals and 4,500 farms− filed a brief with the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, D.C.   The ruling stated that if .9 % of a farmer’s field is contaminated, the farmer would not be sued, but if 1% of a farmer’s field is contaminated by genetically engineered pollen, it is illegal for that farmer to sell or save the seed, and according to US Patent law it belongs to the corporation owning the patent on the seeds.  Organic and non-GMO conventional farmers have had their fundamental right to grow the way they choose taken away. 


Our Ordinance: 

(c) “Sonoma’s ag. economy relies on maintaining its reputation for high quality organic and conventional crops.” 

UCCE Study:  Many farmers and growers successfully cultivate organic, conventional and GE crops on the same farm by using common-sense farming practices to foster coexistence. The University of California has developed a set of fact sheets to help farmers manage issues related to the coexistence of farming systems. See Appendix.   

Rebuttal:  Movement of engineered genes from conventionally grown GE crops to organic crops can cause problems for organic farmers. For this reason, several state seed certification agencies that offer Identity Preserved (IP) grain programs for corn require that non-GE identity preserved corn be planted at least 660 feet (200 m) from any GE corn varieties. (Thomison 2004). (Taken from the same University of California Study, which addresses corn.).  This would mean farmers would have to leave 660 ft buffer zones, as mentioned above.

“Organic farming has become one of the fastest growing segments of U.S. agriculture. U.S. producers are turning to certified organic farming systems as a potential way to lower input costs, decrease reliance on nonrenewable resources, capture high-value markets and premium prices, and provide an end-product which is increasingly in demand.” National Alfalfa & Forage Alliance.  Research by Monsanto and Forage Genetics found that honeybees transferred the RR trait miles from field trials. The dairy industry is the leading user of alfalfa. Organic dairy production increased by 575 percent between 1997 and 2005. USDA, Economic Research Service. Data:  The National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy estimates that RR alfalfa could result in the application of an additional 200,000 pounds of herbicides a year in California alone. 2002  According to the Sonoma County 2014 Crop Report, we have about 40 registered organic dairies in our county(80% of the dairies in Sonoma County are organic.


Our Ordinance: 

 (d) “Transgenic contamination can and does occur as a result of cross pollination, commingling of conventional and GE seeds.”

UCCE :  Cross pollination can occur in outdoor environments, and the transfer of genetic material can occur for a variety of reasons whenever plants are grown or plant materials are stored or transported in proximity to one another. Incidental commingling of trace amounts of one seed, grain or food product with another occurs in any working agricultural production system. This is a reality of plant biology, seed production and the distribution of commodity crops, and was occurring long before the development of biotech products  

Rebuttal:  Addressed in B&C –The corporation creating GMO seeds own the patent on them. If more than a trace (.9%)  of a farmer’s crop is contaminated by genetically engineered plant pollen or seed, according to the US Supreme Court Ruling, the corporation owning the patent on the seed can take possession of the crop and seed .  Even if a trace of an organic farmer’s crop is contaminated, the organic farmer cannot sell the crop as organic and suffers an economic loss and clientele.


Our Ordinance

(e) “The contamination of both conventional and organic ag. products with GE material… can and has resulted in significant economic harm.”

UCCE USDA-certified organic farms cannot lose their certification due to the presence of commingled GE plant material. The use of GE materials or methods are “excluded” from the NOP, but as the rule establishing the program states:

“As long as an organic operation has not used excluded methods and takes reasonable steps to avoid contact with the products of excluded methods as detailed in their approved organic system plan, the unintentional presence of the products of excluded methods should not affect the status of the organic operation or its organic products”

Rebuttal: The U.S. Department of Agriculture, on the other hand, does not automatically decertify organic producers if gene flow is found to have occurred from a neighbor’s GMO crop. However, the farmer cannot sell their crop as organic and in some cases, depending on the amount of contamination (1% or more), is not allowed to sell or save the seed.  Jere Gettle of Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds shared that 50% of corn seeds checked in 2012 had been contaminated by GE Corn pollen transfer and had to be removed from their catalog. Seed diversity appears to be at risk.


Our Ordinance

(g)  “GE crops combined with inadequate regulatory oversight have left Sonoma County citizens with significant concerns regarding the long term safety of GE Crops.

UCCE:  Again, agricultural GE products in the United States are regulated more strictly than any other agricultural or food product in history. These products are not approved until they have been proven to be safe for human consumption and safe for the environment by as many as three Federal agencies. In additional to the testing required by the government’s regulatory process, the safety of GE products has been thoroughly addressed by the international scientific community. There is no inherent scientific rationale why the process itself should be unsafe, particularly in comparison to mutagenesis which is unregulated and has not been commonly associated with adverse health effects (only two cases over 3000 varieties and 75 years of use).

Rebuttal: Again, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not require or conduct safety studies of genetically engineered foods. Instead, safety consultations are voluntary, and genetically engineered food developers may decide what information to provide to the agency. Market approval of genetically engineered food is based on industry research alone. There have been no long-term or epidemiological studies in the U.S. that examine the safety of human consumption of genetically engineered foods. Genetically engineered foods are not labeled, so it is difficult to trace the rise in numerous illnesses back to them as a cause. There have been numerous animal studies showing possible links to several diseases, that show a need for long term studies, as pointed out by FDA scientists before genetically engineered foods were approved for consumption.  A list of studies may be obtained at this link:


Our Ordinance

 Increased use of herbicides in GE agriculture has resulted in the rapid development and proliferation of previously unknown herbicide-tolerant superweeds. These superweeds threaten to overtake the habitat of native flora and fauna in uncultivated lands and force farmers to use increasingly toxic and expensive herbicides to remove them from cultivated lands.

UCCE: In the United States, about 215 weed species are known to be resistant to herbicides, but only about a dozen of those are resistant to glyphosate, one of the herbicides commonly applied to GE herbicide-tolerant crops. These weeds are not superweeds, but rather resistant to certain classes of herbicides. While the development of weed resistance is continually evolving, farmers work very hard to delay resistance by rotating weed control methods and encouraging beneficial insects that feed on weeds to flourish. It’s important for farmers to use all of the tools available to them, including herbicide-resistant crops. The NAS reporti concluded “that in many locations some weeds had evolved resistance to glyphosate, the herbicide to which most GE crops were engineered to be resistant. Resistance evolution in weeds could be delayed by the use of integrated weed-management approaches says the report, which also recommends further research to determine better approaches for weed resistance management.”

Rebuttal: A Dec. 11, 2013 policy brief from the Union of Concerned Scientists, states that “weeds that have developed resistance to a common herbicide that once kept them in check  now affect more than 60 million acres of U.S. cropland, wreaking environmental havoc, increasing farmers’ costs, and promoting the use of  more toxic herbicides. The worst cases are in the southeastern United States, where a reported 92 percent of cotton and soybean fields are infested as a result of Roundup Ready crops” (Fraser 2013)


Our Ordinance

 (m) “The impacts of the direct introduction into Sonoma County of genetically engineered organisms such as trees or fishes, or contamination by them, would be unknowable in advance. However, such introduction or contamination would have the potential to seriously imperil local ecosystems, to threaten traditional ways of life in our rural county, and to undermine critical local industries including forestry, fisheries, and tourism.”

UCCE It is unclear which genetically engineered organisms this is referring to as to date the only approved genetically engineered plants species are corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beet, papaya, squash, alfalfa, potato, and apple. And the only approved genetically engineered animal species is the AquAdvantage salmon which, although not currently being marketed in the US, is only permitted to be grown in contained inland tanks in Panama. The only GE crops that are likely grown in Sonoma County at the current time are glyphosate-tolerant corn for dairy silage, and possibly alfalfa. It has been shown that the adoption of glyphosate-tolerant crops resulted in a decrease in the use of more toxic herbicides to control weeds in corn, and banning the cultivation of glyphosate-tolerant corn would likely lead to the substitution of an alternative herbicide such as 2-4-D or Dicambia on conventional corn.

Rebuttal: The comment that only the above mentioned GMOs have been approved is short sited.  There are other fish, other foods, plants, and trees awaiting approval, and many are currently being planted in the open air as test crops. There are two GE crops, that I am aware of, in our county.  Let’s be proactive and protect our local farms by prohibiting the cultivation of genetically engineered crops Sonoma County before they come and contaminate our pastures, farms, forests, forage and cover crops.

OSU News CORVALLIS, Ore. – Forest geneticists at Oregon State University have created genetically modified poplar trees that grow faster, have resistance to insect pests and are able to retain expression of the inserted genes for at least 14 years, a report in the Canadian Journal of Forest Research just announced


University of British Columbia

Researchers have genetically engineered trees that will be easier to break down to produce paper and biofuel, a breakthrough that will mean using fewer chemicals, less energy and creating fewer environmental pollutants.

Some trees are being genetically engineered with reduced lignan to reduce pulping costs, such as the genetically modified loblolly pine for altered wood composition. "In the case of genetically modified poplar, pine or other trees with native wild relatives, the threat of irreversible genetic contamination from these genetically modified trees into native forests is impossible to control, if these trees are produced in large numbers and released into the environment," Dr. Steven Straus Ore. State University of Forestry. This tree pollen travels up to 100 miles.

Stated Objectives-

1 The stated objectives of the ordinance are:

To protect Sonoma County's native plants, trees, and animals from transgenic contamination by genetically engineered organisms (GMOs);

UCCE The only GE crop variety that is likely to be currently grown in Sonoma County is corn and possibly/potentially alfalfa. There are no native plants that are sexually compatible with corn or alfalfa. This means that there are no native plants, trees, or animals in the county that are at risk of contamination.

Rebuttal: Our ordinance would also protect against any new genetically engineered crops. As mentioned before, there are other crops awaiting approval. Blue grass and fescue grass have also been released.  Fescue and a number of grasses are listed on the UC Master Gardener’s list of Sonoma County Native Plants. Redwood trees, although still in test crop stage, have been genetically engineered. Granny Smith and Golden Delicious Apples have been genetically engineered.  Many of our local apple orchards grow Golden Delicious Apples.

Our ordinance would also protect against any new genetically engineered crops. Blue grass and fescue grass have also been approved. Soper-Wheeler Co. contracted with a Humboldt County tree nursery to grow and ship about 150,000 genetically engineered baby redwoods to the company's 10,000-acre Conway Hills plantation on New Zealand's South Island. The seedlings, transported in sterilized Petri dishes, were first planted in August, 2003, which is late winter in New Zealand.. Soper-Wheeler President Jim Holmes said the company's multimillion-dollar commitment in New Zealand marks an end to four decades of investment and expansion in California.  Let’s keep our redwoods uncontaminated. Trees are important to wildlife habitats,and provide food for much of our wildlife.


Dept. of Agriculture Costs  Page 19-20

UCCE list all of the costs that would be incurred by the Agricultural Commission.

Rebuttal:  Our ordinance states-

(a)   The Commissioner shall create and provide for a procedure for any person to report any known or suspected violation of this Ordinance.  The procedure shall include the creation of a reporting form to document the nature and location of the reported violation, the basis for the report, and contact information for the reporting party.

(b)  The Commissioner may bring an action in a court of competent jurisdiction to enjoin any person or entity from violating this chapter.

(c)   The Commissioner shall assess a civil monetary penalty against any person or entity violating this chapter, in the amount of:

1)    One hundred dollars for a first violation;

2)    Five hundred dollars for a second violation; or

3)    One thousand dollars for a third or subsequent violation.

In assessing penalties, each day of violation must be considered a separate violation.

(d)  The Commissioner may also assess to the violator of this Ordinance any costs of enforcing the provisions of this Ordinance.

(e)   The Commissioner shall submit an annual report to the Board containing a brief description of all complaints received and enforcement actions taken under this Ordinance, if any, along with any other relevant information or analysis the Commissioner may choose, at his or her discretion, to include.  A copy of such report shall be posted on the County Department of Agriculture’s official website. 


None of our five neighboring counties that have had this ordinance in effect for up to 11 years have incurred any negative fiscal impact nor have they experienced any cost to taxpayers. As stated before, all agricultural commissioners in the other 5 counties have had no problems.  Mendocino thought they had canola contamination, but two inexpensive test kits proved the accusation to be false.  Measure M has the same prohibition as these neighboring counties.  Why would it be different here?  Our farmers deserve that same protection.