Ag Today November 9, 2016

Measure M, proposed GMO ban in Sonoma County, ahead at the polls


THE PRESS DEMOCRAT | November 8, 2016, 8:57PM

A proposed ban on genetically-modified crops in Sonoma County led in results early Wednesday.

With 459 of 459 precincts reporting, Measure M held 56 percent of the ‘yes’ vote.

“We’re watching and waiting,” said Karen Hudson, the Rohnert Park-based coordinator of Citizens for Healthy Farms and Families, from Petaluma’s Tara Firma Farms, where Measure M supporters gathered Tuesday night to watch election results.

Measure M would ban all genetically-modified crops and seeds from being grown or used in unincorporated areas of the county. If the measure passes, Sonoma County would join Mendocino, Marin, Trinity, Humboldt and Santa Cruz counties as the only California communities to enforce bans on GMO seeds and crops.

In general, genetically modified plants are grown from seeds engineered to resist insecticides and herbicides, add nutritional benefits or otherwise improve crop yields and increase global food supply. Most corn, soybean and cotton crops grown in the United States today have been bio-engineered.

It’s unclear whether any such crops are being grown in Sonoma County. However, Measure M supporters argued a ban is needed to prevent future plantings and possible cross-contamination with other crops, including those certified organic.

Opponents argued a GMO ban could stymie the fight against vineyard pests, such as Pierce’s disease and powdery mildew. They also pointed to scientific studies showing GMO foods generally don’t pose health risks.

Measure M supporters, which include organic dairies, natural food co-ops and heirloom seed companies, raised more than three times as much money as opponents, which included seed giant Monsanto, a consortium of chemical companies and the Sonoma County Farm Bureau.

The combined amounts raised by the campaigns, nearly $255,000, made Measure M one of the more expensive ballot initiatives in county history. However, that amount was well shy of the record $850,000 spent a decade ago on a similar measure handily rejected by voters.

Political observers predicted a GMO ban stood a better chance of being approved this election because of interest in local elections in which the environment was a major theme.

Sonoma County’s ban would not forbid medical treatment for humans or animals using altered vaccines or medications. The ban also would not prevent research into genetically modified organisms within the county as long as it was conducted in secure labs.

| Updated 4 hours ago.

Check local election results here