GMO Free Humboldt Seeks Biotech Ban

Monday, July 8, 2013

Bryn Robertson

Eye Reporter

BAYSIDE – The GMO Free Humboldt grassroots organization of local consumers, farmers and concerned individuals met last Wednesday at the Bayside Grange to construct a ban on the growth of genetically modified organisms in Humboldt County.

Unlike the recent Proposition 37, which sought to label all genetically modified produce and other goods already available to consumers, the GMO Free Humboldt ban would prevent these crops and other organisms from being grown or produced within the county.

About 70 attendees from Arcata, Eureka, Garberville and other parts of Humboldt appeared at the meeting and signed up to volunteer their time to prepare the ban wording for submission to the county.

Small groups formed to develop the language and talking points of the ban itself, as well as outreach and education to both organic and non-organic farmers, influential stakeholders and other interested members of the community.

The two-hour meeting whipped by with passionate input from families, farmers and local business representatives, all eager to voice their concerns and offer their time to get the ball rolling.

One young mother with an even younger baby boy took the time to alert the group of an up-and-coming Moms Across America march against Humboldt GMOs in Ferndale and an Arcata Co-op representative gathered contact from members to further develop an outreach network.

The grassroots movement is in its early stages and developing fast with an open invitation to all Humboldt locals interested in participating.

Meetings are held bimonthly at the Bayside Grange.

Volunteers are expected to bring energy and a willingness to work with other volunteers in the group to prepare the ban for submission, with the deadline set roughly 347 days before elections.

Upcoming meeting dates:  July 10, 24, Aug. 7, 21, Sept. 4, 18, Oct. 2, 16, Nov. 6, 20 and Dec. 4, 18.

For more information on the Moms Across America march visit

GMO Free Humboldt’s Facebook page.


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59 Responses to “GMO Free Humboldt Seeks Biotech Ban”

  1. It might be wise to include a ban on pesticides which may be affecting the health of bees and other pollinators.

  2. Shannon Cunningham

    Moms Across America March To Label GMOs-totally separate from a Humboldt Ban+ororganic farmer protection. Thanks for calling me young, my 14 year old was watching my 8&2 year olds while I brough my 2month old lol.

  3. I hope we can ban gmos in general and neonicotinoid pesticides.

    I don't want to buy them, and I doubt anyone else in this quirky area would either, and the neonicotinoids are deadly to bees.

    Yes that is right for the astute, a pesticide derived from nicotine. Sounds yummy.

  4. Ian Ray

    There is more to the neonicotinoid connection.

    This beekeeper references many sources to provide a perspective on the issue:

    Our region is mentioned as well to make a point about pesticides and cancer.
    "To my utter surprise, Fresno and Kern, agricultural counties using 30 and 25 million pounds of pesticides, respectively, in 2010 had lower cancer rates than did the pristine Northern California coastal counties such as Humboldt and Mendocino (0.03 and 1 million pounds)."

  5. Humboldt & Mendocino counties have been doused with herbicides on our clearcut timberlands for decades. This is ongoing. "Pristine coastal counties" my ass! I'm sure Fresno & Kern counties migrant labor force is not counted in their "lower" cancer rates, because migrant workers often don't "count" as residents. Here in Humboldt, hispanic timberland herbicide sprayers and other farmworkers (at Sun Valley Floral for example) are often illegals who never show up in official statistics either, they would be deported.

    The author of the article in reference is admittedly "pro-pesticide". He is writing about bees and yet throws out this issue of human cancer rates out of the blue as if that proves safety to bees? Is he really a beekeeper? Sounds a lot like a Chemical corporate apologist. The ONE pesticide he keeps arguing is safe is Imidacloprid, even if he's right, what about all the rest? He convieniently ignores those. Purdue Univ. list of Highly Toxic Pesticides for bees, includes 48 other dangerous chemical pesticides besides Imidacloprid,

    Also he keeps apologizing for neonicotinoid pesticides only IF they are sprayed at "field-relevant doses" without ever defining that term. If you read carefully it says quite clearly " Field-relevant doses do not appear to negatively affect [bee] learning, but higher doses may." in other words: Low doses are not a problem but high doses may indeed be. And so who regulates this dosage? Basically no one, the so-called regulatory agencies have been taken over by the chemical companies. Many "scientists" have been bought off too through their corporate research funding.

    Here's some peer-reviewed science that refutes mr chemical lover.

    Multiple Routes of Pesticide Exposure for Honey Bees Living Near Agricultural Fields

    Risk assessment for side-effects of neonicotinoids against bumblebees with and without impairing foraging behavior

  6. Ian Ray

    The point this beekeeper and others make about field-relevant doses has yet to be seriously challenged. Throwing out studies of sublethal, non-field-relevant neonicotinoid doses on foraging behavior don't "refute mr chemical." Granted, if there were any evidence that the same type of dose used in the field had a negative effect on bees, there wouldn't be this discussion. The evidence is simply not there; name calling does not make it magically appear.

  7. The term “chemical” isn’t well understood. The popular usage isn’t particularly accurate.

  8. Please define "field relevant dose", and explain how anyone, govt. agency or not, can possibly regulate these doses. The point is that these pesticides kill bees.

    Here's more evidence:

  9. I highly doubt the migrant workers have been adequately trained in how to apply chemicals at a "field relevant dose". seeing as they often aren't even given proper safety equipment. We know the feds are all too busy to be on the ground enforcing any meaningful laws. and the chemical companies don't want to tell you how "little" to use. they want you to use the whole bottle and go back to buy more. The bottom line is always the highest standard for these people.

  10. Chad White

    If GMO's are banned in Humboldt and GMO farmers stop using GMO , what pest control would they/could they use instead? And would that be safer? Seems like banning GMO's would not be a good idea if they then increased the usage of neonicinoids and other more harmful chemicals.

  11. Edward R Bennett

    Evidence….do you have it? Or are we going to vote on a ban is popular among people who forgo evidence and decide to draft laws based on popular propaganda! I think peer reviewed research and hard scientific data is needed to determine what should be put into this ban. If you can not give either of those, then popular opinion and not hard scientific facts will be the culprit here.

  12. Ian Ray

    James Ficklin, this review of recent studies discusses field-relevant doses as a function of equipment and coating type:

    No doubt lousy equipment and poor coatings will release high levels of pesticide. However, these incidents are isolated and cannot be logically interpreted as either the silver bullet for CCD nor a reason for banning neonicotinoid pesticides. Considering organophosphates and carbamates are the commercial alternatives to neonicotinoids, it would seem to me reckless to ban neonicotinoids.

  13. Ian Ray

    Chad White, your point is completely sound. The main argument in 2004 with Measure M was that the very edges of biotech crops would potentially pollinate organic crops, specifically corn and specifically a single organic farmer in Blue Lake. I see no problem with establishing setbacks for specific corn crops if pollination is a genuine concern, it is the outright ban that seems a bit reactionary. Considering our major agricultural output besides timber/Sun Valley is fluid milk and that Humboldt imports ~1/3 of its dairy cow feed, it would make sense to me to both protect dairy farmers growing organic feed crops and those growing lower-pesticide genetically engineered crops.

    Mendocino passed their Measure H with less resistance, but their major output is of course grapes.

    I do think it is valid to take a close look at the future of both conventional and specialty agriculture in this county as A. farmland is steadily being encroached on and B. the marijuana-based agricultural exports will inevitably dry up someday.

  14. Chad White

    ''if pollination is a genuine concern'' People are genuinely concerned, but I don't know its based on sound reasoning and evidence. The following is something I found from an agricultural scientist;

    ''Long before the advent of GMO crops, farmers of certain crops have had to manage “genetic contamination” issues involving normal cross pollination. Wheat is wind pollinated and farmers commonly save part of their crop each year to serve as seed for the next (“saved seed”). Wheat is also a crop with very specific quality characteristics for its various uses (raised breads, flat breads, crackers, pastries, noodles…). New wheat varieties are bred for those specific uses. There is a network of dedicated wheat seed growers who produce “certified seed” with enough isolation from other wheat so that the seed they produce is >95% the desired variety. If a farmer plants that certified seed (usually at a small cost above current grain price), the crop he/she produces will be what is desired for the end use. If the farmer saves some of that crop and plants it a second year, it will be less pure because of cross pollination from neighboring fields. After a few years, it is necessary for the farmer to buy new certified seed because his/her own supply is “contaminated.” There are many more examples like this for “saved seed” crops.

    Hybrid seeds are grown by dedicated seed growers and purchased by the farmers every year. This system insures both genetic purity for specific needs and the extra vigor and yield potential that hybridization enables.

    Whether it is a “saved seed” crop or a hybrid crop, GMO versions create no new issues beyond what farmers have always been managing. It only becomes an issue when someone wants to set a zero tolerance unlike the rational tolerances that have made all of these crops work for a very long time.

    Crops Where Cross Pollination is Irrelevant

    A few years ago there was a ballot initiative in Mendocino, California to ban GMO crops from that county. It was driven by concerns about “genetic contamination” of the Organic farms (many supporters didn’t understand the paragraph above). The fact that there were not even GMO crops that were likely to ever be planted in this particular county was seemingly irrelevant to the debate. I was talking with a PhD level scientist that worked for one of the wineries there, and asked why that company was supporting the ban. She said it was because of concerns about how the genetic contamination risk could hurt their sales. I was stunned because, as a scientist, she certainly knew that grapes are never grown from seed but rather “vegetatively propagated.” If you take a seed from a Cabernet grape and plant it, you will not grow a Cabernet. It will be some new variety, just as when humans have children, they are each a unique new combination of their mother’s and father’s genes. For thousands of years farmers have known how to take cuttings of desirable fruits and get them to root, or how to take buds of the desired fruit variety and graft it onto a rootstock. The grapes in Mendocino county had been propagated that way for centuries. A block of Cabernet planted next to a block of Chardonnay is not a “genetic contamination” issue, because the seed is never planted. This same principle applies to almost all fruit and to other vegetatively reproduced crops like potatoes, cassava, sweet potatoes, sugarcane and many others. GMO versions of these crops would not represent any “genetic contamination risk” at all. That is why it is so sad and absurd that activists in France destroyed a GMO grapevine trial because of needless “contamination” fears.

    Genetic Contamination: An Intentionally Overplayed Issue?

    On several occasions I have written directly to individual, anti-GMO scientists, at Greenpeace and elsewhere, asking specific questions about how they imagine that a particular crop could represent a “genetic contamination risk.” I have never received an answer with any scientific justification or even a plausible “what if” scenario. Presuming that these individuals understand basic plant biology, they apparently choose not to acknowledge it in their public campaigns.

    What is really going on (“cross pollination”) is a vital, natural process. Farmers and the plant breeders who serve them have long been able to harness the positive potential of this genetic exchange to breed for improved varieties. They have also been able to fully manage the cases where cross pollination could cause a genetic purity problem for the crop. GMO crops have not changed this in any fundamental way that cannot be dealt with by rational decision making and regulation.''

  15. Chad White

    This is one of the greatest science communications failures of the past half-century. Millions, possibly billions, of people have come to believe what is essentially a conspiracy theory, generating fear and misunderstanding about a whole class of technologies on an unprecedentedly global scale.
    For those who oppose biotechnology I'd like to ask; '' How 'could' you know if you are wrong?" And what sort of evidence would you accept to change your mind? IME, these folks are in a closed idealogical loop of circlular reasoning driven by fear. Rational and civil discourse has IME failed in the face of emotional reactions from these people. I want to see a public debate with both sides having a voice, but have found their best tactic to be silencing and/or demonizing their opponents. I cannot count how many times I've been accused of being on Monsanto's payroll, yet in all truth I am simply a science advocate committed to intellectual honesty. I was very dismayed when D-bag heroes of the anti gmo movement Jeffrey Smith, and Seralini BOTH withdrew from the planned “Great Biotechnology” debate scheduled for June 4 at the CATO Institute in Washington, DC. The event was shaping up to be a genuine first—a civil discussion between pro-science advocates sympathetic to the role of biotechnology in food and farming and dedicated opponents who believe transgenic foods are a violation of nature and harmful to humans and animals. (The event went on at CATO as a forum, the vid is available on youtube)- It's just shameful, utterly shameful they push this harmful superstition, while refusing to engage in honest dialogue with real scientists. I have found IME that the most dogmatic anti gmo activists have not even heard counter arguments or researched it beyond propaganda video's, and suffer from scientific illiteracy.

    All dis-confirming scientific evidence (including 100's of independently funded studies which rarely get acknowledgement) as well as the overwhelming scientific consensus from the most reputable science institutions in the world; AAAS, AMA, NAS, and RSM are said to be part of the cover up. I think it would be wise to evaluate what it would actually be required to successfully corrupt these institutions. We hear from climate change deniers that science is a liberal conspiracy to bring about global socialism, lol. The strongest argument to counter them is the consensus among the scientific community of experts. This same community of scientists which conclude the reality of climate change also offers an equally evidence supported consensus on the safety AND benefits of transgenic crops. The people I've spoken to that oppose GM crops support science and the scientific consensus on climate change, but then turn their back on these same institutions when they do not validate their fears and ideology. And I have yet to hear how they or the UCS account for this inconsistency in their position. For the fears of danger from GMO's to have any validity this unproven conspiracy theory must also be true. I do believe it is time to call out this conspiracy theory for the claptrap it is, and start repairing the damage it has already done to the environmental movement. This matters enormously because these technologies – in particular the various uses of molecular biology to enhance plant breeding potential – are clearly some of our most important tools for addressing food security and future environmental change.

  16. Writing an initiative is a complicated matter. The last attempt in Humboldt County was a fiasco. But these are all related issues. We are a relatively isolated area, and it seems that it would be possible to create a set of ordinances which would promote all the healthy things that the entire country needs to do, eventually. Let's take the leadership, and make it Ecotopia, USA.

  17. Ian Ray

    Chad White 150ft is the standard distance for corn to avoid pollinating other corn in such as way that would potentially cause problems with things such as export restrictions.

    Although wheat tends to mostly self-pollinate to the point that even adjacent plants only have a 5% chance of any cross-pollination, wheat pollen is smaller than corn, so the same distance of ~150ft is recommended.

    Alfalfa is the funny one to me… nobody grows alfalfa to seed on purpose unless they are a certified seed producer being inspected as such. Still, anti-GMO people talk about the dangers of genetically engineered alfalfa cross pollination without thinking about how that would happen sort of like the grape story mentioned in your quote.

  18. Chad & Ian, why don't you two get a room. They have cheap hourly rates at the Hotel Monsanto

  19. You still haven't defined the term in question, yet you toss out yet another link that still doesn't prove the safety of neonic's for Bees. Your limited thinking only allows for more toxic chemicals as an "alternative" to toxic chemicals. Try thinking outside the corporatized, monoculture box sometime. Look up: Integrated Pest Management, and Polyculture for a start.

  20. Ian Ray

    James Ficklin, is that really how you want to respond? You are providing an example of Chad's complaint about rational and civil discourse.

  21. There is a great deal of scientific, peer-reviewed, and well documented evidence on the current and potential dangers of GMO's. Unfortunately, in this country, there is an enormous opposition to the scientific study of GMO's. Particularly by the industry and regulatory agencies that should be most concerned with it. The FACTS are GMO's ARE killing unintended organisms (pollinators especially) today, rats tested and feed GMO corn ARE sterile in 3 generations, and most GMO's are not breed for increased vigor, size, or nutrition, but to survive ever more vast quantities of chemical poisons manufactured by these companies, the use of which has skyrocketed since this class of GMO's has been in use. As one who farms and works as a biologist your statement is to me nothing more than a profound statement of how unacquainted you are with the science of biology/ecology, the motivations and history of this industry, the rights of individuals to not live in an irreversibly polluted environment, food production, land use, and especially the very technology you are acting as a proponent of. You claim those concerned with their health and the state of their world are basing their arguments on emotion alone, but yours seems only to be based on the advertising campaigns of this pompous industry. Do your homework.

  22. Excellent suggestion. Oregon just placed a temporary ban on neonecotinide based poisons following some massive bee kills in that state. As have many countries around the world.

  23. Cross pollination is only a single reason of many that GMO's present risks for farmers and the environment. A simple example would be the incredible die-offs we have been having of pollinators, most notably honey bees, but there are others. GMO corn and alfalfa, both already grown in Humboldt County, are doing great damage to bee populations, which are vital for the fertilization of most food crops. The latest estimates for bee populations in the US have shown we have lost 90% of our bee population due to GMO's and neonicotinide based pesticides.

  24. Ian Ray

    Nathan Donnelly, after the monarch butterfly incident, scientists have been coming down very hard on preliminary research findings. Some research is valuable for precaution such as the emergence of GE varieties as semi-feral weeds and the unrelated but equally important unintentional development of insecticide resistance in pests/herbicide resistance in existing weeds. Other research is less than valuable such as that from Seralini and Joel de Vendomois.

    Fringe scientists know that there are people who want to believe. The fact is even after Seralini's work has been repeatedly discredited, it is still held up as evidence by people who want to believe. The same bias for referring to evidence even after it is shown to be flawed is present in the various movements that are anti-vaccine, anti-fluoridation, anti-chemtrail (or rather, those who wish to prove the existence of chemtrails), and anti-technology in general. Continually referring to bunk evidence is one of the hallmarks of pseudoscience.

    The unfortunate case in my opinion is that genetic technology has been monopolized not because of Monsanto, but that it has been monopolized because of reactionary activism. Small companies simply can't afford to go through regulatory hurdles while large corporations can. In this way, the grassroots has handed a monopoly to the corporatists.

  25. Ian Ray

    Nathan Donnelly, do you have a source for the roundup-ready-bee connection or was that meant to be rhetorical?

  26. Chad White , the fact that many of the top officials of the FDA are former or current Monsanto employees is not a conspiracy theory, but fact. And this sad conflict of interest is one of the main reasons that people of your line of thinking are so confident in the position that this is some kind of fringe paranoia. Many countries have banned GMOs from even being imported into thir countries for the simple reason that once their non-GMO crops are cross contaminated by GMOs then the non-GMO crops will only produce GMO seeds and the non-GMO varieties become more and more scarce and expensive to get seeds for. The very endeavor of growing non-GMO corn in a region where GMO corn is grown is simply not economically viable, which forces the farmers to grow GMO once the area is contaminated by GMO's. This is a very simple way that biotech companies are gaining a monopoly on several varieties of food in certain areas, especially in the US, where virtually all non-organic corn and soy is already GMO seed purchased directly from biotech companies or cross contaminated and therefore genetically altered.

  27. Chad White Also, there will be highly publicised debates scheduled for Humboldt County in the near future featuring scientists and researchers from both sides of the argument, so stay tuned and bring your best evidence if you have any, cause the truth will be revealed, including a detailed account of all of the countries that have made bans against GMOs and their stated reasons.

  28. Soon we will need to, but there still needs to be more public awareness about the health effects and environmental damage caused by pesticides. As someone stated above, California law limits ballot initiatives to one issue at a time.

  29. Ian Ray , If it is true that GMO's are farmed with less pecticides, you must also consider that fact that they are grown with a huge amount of herbicides (defoliants), hence the brand name Roundup-Ready Corn. These crops are sprayed with defoliants that kill every other plant that they touch. It is the same chemical that the logging companies use to kill of the oaks and madrone trees, according to their own staff members.

  30. Just wondering, are there any GMO free restaurants in Humboldt yet?

  31. Thank you Brynn for this excellent article. Sorry I can't say the same for the Times Standard which started out with an obvious jab by quoting a "hippy" reference.

  32. OK, Ian Ray, I apologize for my flippant remark earlier, but I had just read Chad Whites comments and name-calling (above) which were neither "civil" nor "rational" either.
    Here's my response to his spurious and emotional claims of "conspiracy theory" and "lack of scientific facts": (hopefully these hypertext links will cut & paste properly)
    First off, the ongoing attack on science by the Biotech industry and their hired gun PR firms has to be acknowledged.
    Read this story entitled: "Monsanto's PR firm admits involvement in e-mail campaign to discredit scientists"

    Whenever anyone tries to warn of the dangers of GMOs, the industry responds by doing its utmost to discredit the whistle blower and prevent the warning from being heard. We have already witnessed what happened to Arpad Pusztai: (Pusztai Publishes Amidst Fresh Storm of Attack ,
    David Quist and Ignacio Chapela (Who's Afraid of Horizontal Gene Transfer?,
    Irina Ermakova (Science and Scientist Abused,
    also Nancy Oliviera ( Big Business = Bad Science?,

    Crop Scientists Say Biotechnology Seed Companies Are Thwarting Research

    Now for the "Evidence" requested by Edward R Bennett:

    (This is a just a sampling of links to evidence that GMO's cause harm to human health and the environment. There is plenty more out there. Round-Up/Glyphosate is included since the vast majority of GMO's are "Round-Up Ready" – meaning they are grown with Round-Up, which has led to the over-use of this toxic herbicide)

    Genetically Modified Wheat May 'Silence' Human Genome …


    BBC 'Trojan gene' could wipe out fish

    GM soybean: Latin America’s new colonizer by Miguel Altieri and Walter Pengue

    Transgenic Crops in Argentina: The Ecological and Social Debt

    Glyphosate's Suppression of Cytochrome P450 Enzymes and Amino Acid Biosynthesis by the Gut Microbiome: Pathways to Modern Diseases

    Genetically Modified Wheat May 'Silence' Human Genome …


    Consensus among leading experts – genes are not carriers of isolated traits "Gene technology is inherently unpredictable and therefore unsafe"

    Evaluation of risks from creation of novel RNA molecules in genetically engineered wheat plants and recommendations for risk assessment

    GE Crops Destroy Our Soil and Food Supply – Mercola

    Death by Multiple Poisoning, Glyphosate and Roundup

  33. Ian Ray, If Chad White's "point is completely sound." as you claim, then you must agree that "neonicotinoids" are "harmful chemicals" thus contradicting yourself in other postings. Get your facts/opinions straight.

  34. Kevin Hoover

    Did they really misspell "hippie?"

  35. So you're saying Ian that plants specifically engineered to contain and produce insecticides, with genes from a bacteria, are not going to kill beneficial insects that utilize the pollen or nectar from those plants during pollination? Or beneficial predatory insects that spend their entire life cycle within those plants, feeding on pests that have ingested them? Here's an example of good science that anyone can do at home: A completely new organism, mutated to kill insects, is introduced to the environment. A huge die-off of insects, including butterflies, bees, and other vital to the production of most of our food, is observed in that area. This process is repeated in other areas with the same results, many times. What can be inferred by these experiences? Had the FDA or industry devoted its efforts to studying what I describe above, rather than trying confound others obvious conclusions in their studies, we wouldn't be listening to your ranting right now, GMO's would cease to be legal as has happened in many other nations without so much industry lobbyist money flowing into them or running their own FDA's.

  36. It should not be on the population to prove that these mutation and poison technologies aren't safe. It should lay with the industry that wants to sell them to prove they aren't dangerous. They are unable to do so, as they are dangerous on a variety of scales. Trying to say you're defending Science while supporting Monsanto shows a complete disregard for Science. The prop. 37 counter campaign, and its absence of facts, illegal USDA emblem usage, while completely ignoring the issue of labeling at all should show what the industries motivations are. Hopefully you are doing your homework now and looking into the many links posted by James. Thank you James.

  37. Ian Ray

    Nathan Donnelly, I have a problem with the "plants bred to produce insecticides" argument: many plants produce strong insecticides. The reason I spray B.t. on broccoli is because cabbage moths have adapted to a strong insecticide in mustard oils while many other pests would die trying to eat broccoli. I see nothing especially scary about B.t. in plants instead of sprayed on except for the possibility of pests evolving resistance which happens anyway… how do we suppose cabbage moths evolved?

    As far as bees and GM crops, that is pure rhetoric. Where is your source for this claim?

  38. Leah Stamper

    no, not the last I heard

  39. Ian Ray

    James Ficklin, just because a corporation engages in dirty tactics does not mean advocacy groups can. That is textbook tu quoque fallacy (there seems to be a lot of that going around, maybe it is contagious).

    Neonicotinoids are of course "dangerous chemicals." So are eugenol compounds (clove oil, cinnamon oil), cyclic terpenes (d-limonene etc), and concentrated acids (acetic acid most commonly). Yet, all these potentially dangerous chemicals when used in proper doses have the desired effect without killing everything. Research into bees where bees are dosed with extremely strong doses of chemical suggesting high dosage insecticides have an adverse effect on bees don't tell us anything about low doses. Try dousing bees with concentrated organic insecticides or herbicides and they will also suffer adverse effects. Dose is everything with this stuff.

    I'm not saying that there shouldn't be some regulation on seed drill safety with neonicotinoid seeds, I'm just not willing to throw out the baby with the bathwater just because of some isolated incidents of misapplication. Farmers clearly want to use less damaging pesticides… it was one of the big reasons neonicotinoids have had market success.

  40. Ian Ray

    James Ficklin, I see you like blogs and news sources talking about this stuff. Humor me and read this blog post discussing Professor Jack A. Heinemann's opinion papers?

    The most annoying bit for me is the way Prof. Heinemann brought his opinion to light: working with an advocacy group. Opinion papers sent through scare channels are not the way evidence should reach consideration for regulation.

    The other basic attack on actual tests done by Monsanto and others is that the companies have to fund the tests themselves. My question is, who should fund testing of a product, the manufacturer or all of us through tax dollars? If it were all of us, companies would be putting out a new genetic product for testing every five minutes. At least when the company hoping to sell the product pays for testing, we can be assured that they take the monetary loss if the results are not in their favor.

  41. Kevin Hoover

    The GMO Free Humboldt group has developed an early tendency toward tribalism. It exudes a hair-trigger, with-us-or-against-us hostility to open discussion comparable in intensity to that of two other groups which I have experienced in recent years: Kim Starr's People Project and the Tea Party. Grouchiness is baseline; everything is personal.

    If the group hopes to mainstream its message, and truly believes the science is on its side, it ought to dial back the tribal protective responses and adopt a more approachable and cooperative culture. The hostility and argumentums ad monsantium are not necessary to achieve its goals.

  42. Isis Austin

    Kevin Hoover , was this your purpose in covering this issue and our meeting? To watch the debate spark and then point fingers at one side? Did you even read the insults of Chad White above. He has been at this for a while and usually starts w/ name-calling. And believe me I have heard them all. The issues at hand are not fear based as he constantly states. Cross-contamination btwn GMO and non-GMO crops is not a fear, it is a reality. The fact that biotech sues farmers for patent infringement when they never purposefully planted patented GMO seed it a fact, not a fear. I would really appreciate it if you gave a balanced perspective as the editor.

  43. Ian Ray

    It might be a good idea to talk openly about the issues with local voters who may care about local issues prior to the feared deep pockets of big industry moving in with industry-line rebuttals.

  44. Kevin Hoover

    If Big Biotech comes here, you can bet that its representatives will be way too smart to insult anyone who questions their assertions.

    They will have a huge advantage in that respect right off the bat, and it has nothing to do with the actual substance of the issue.

  45. Isis Austin

    Kevin, I would really like to point out that several people on this thread, most notably James and Cody, do not represent GMO Free Humboldt as an organization. The issue of GMOs is very very broad and we are discussing a ban on the growing of GMO crops. IMO we need to focus on talking about contamination and protecting farmers & less about whether the science is good or not. I am very glad to hear you voted for Prop 37 and are concerned about crop contamination. I am concerned about crop contamination too as should others in our community. Thanks for your balanced perspective. I appreciate it.

  46. Ian Ray

    Isis Austin, how are we supposed to decouple science from science-related issues? I've heard the same thing from the anti-fluoride people, radiophobia boosters, and anti-vaccine movement. The position that science is less than relevant doesn't sound like a good stance.

    Aside from that, I managed to find a field study with different results than ~150ft I had recalled for corn fertilization:

    This study found that at 25m (82 feet), there was 0.08% admixture rate and 0.005% at 250m. Whether or not this is accurate can be disputed, but it may be useful to look at existing numerical values. If 1/20,000 is an unacceptable fertilization rate, then perhaps there is merit to a crop ban instead of just requiring geographic isolation.

    Like most voters, I have no stake in the issue besides living here and imagining the "what if" scenario of some novel technology being released that would benefit the county but couldn't be used if it were already banned. I can recognize that the 70,000+ acres of organic production here has a lot at stake and I wish them continued success. I would just like to see something solid that would indicate organic farmers are really the issue here and not just political confirmation of ideas pulled from blogs and Russia Today.

  47. Kevin Hoover

    And that is exactly what I'm talking about.

    1. Our purpose is serving the community with straightforward news coverage, which our reporter Bryn Robertson has admirably accomplished. Despite, I might add, the incessant and needless hostility of the GMO Free crowd as exemplified above.

    2. Anyone's insulting comments are their responsibility. Don't fall for the Tu Quoque logical fallacy. GMO Free Humboldt can take the high road and really lead a constructive movement. This Tea Party-like anger and hostility really turns me off.

    3. Regarding biotech and GMOs, here is the balanced perspective you are asking for: I supported Prop 37 and voted for it. I have acute concerns about crop contamination. At the same time, some of the extreme claims about GMO food, and the obsessive argumentums ad monsantium are ludicrous and don't serve the movement well.

  48. Isis Austin

    Ian please talk to some local farmers and beekeepers and ask them what they think about GMOs being grown in our county in several known locations. Specifically GMO alfalfa & GMO corn. I can tell you that many of them support an outdoor growing ban of GMOs. The best way to know how the farmers feel is to ask them. From my understanding that would not include something like indoor research so HSU programs would not be hampered. The language has not even been written yet so please don't assume there is something that is complete already. There is also plenty of science & real cases showing that genetic contamination happens. There is an Organic farmer in Oregon that tilled under a whole field because it was contaminated w/ GMO sugar beets. That could be a reality here too. GMO sugar beets can cross with the chard family. And GMO canola can cross w/ the brassica family which includes cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli.

  49. Ian Ray

    Isis Austin, since you bring up Oregon, I have read reports that saboteurs destroyed a large crop of sugar beets in June. Acts like this hardly seem righteous to me even if there were outstanding lawsuits from farmers. Considering that a good chunk of Oregon's sugar beet production is transgenic (I have read assumptions as high as 95%), would prohibition acts intended to "protect farmers" not also have the collateral effect of damaging other farmers in Oregon?

    Also, calling for action regarding sugar beets would be one thing is this was Merced or Fresno county, but what Humboldt sugar beet production are you even referring to? I wasn't aware that sugar beets were grown on any noteworthy scale here.

  50. If a bee, or other insect, visits a plant that produces an insecticide (as opposed to a deterrent, tastes bad, which is what you're actually talking about regarding the mustard family) That bee is going to be in a bad way. Feed those same bees corn syrup made from corn engineered to produce insecticide, to get them through the winter after removing their honey, which is standard practice in the industry now, and those bees will be in a bad way. I understand there are other issues concerning the massive bee die-offs (80-90% decrease in bee populations in US.) in this country and around the world (such as neonicotenide pesticides), but this is a big chunk of that problem.
    A good farmer that observes an infestation of pests in his crops is able to spray Bt AS NEEDED and limit exposer to the beneficial populations of pollinators, predators, etc. Preemptively poisoning crops without reason has turned most farmland into ecological dead zones.
    For those who don't know what Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) is, it is a bacteria that when ingested causes the digestive system to basically explode. It was thought the human digestive system was supposed to break down the Bt toxin completely, but further study has shown otherwise. Since this was never thoroughly studied by the industry or FDA/USDA before being approved for human consumption it is now in a great deal of our blood streams.
    The bacteria itself is approved as a spray, but has a dubious reputation among many of the farmers I know, preferring not to use it or only as a last resort. Engineering its toxin directly into the plant is considered foolish.


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