While voters in Marin County went the way of the Luddite and approved a ballot initiative on Tuesday banning genetically engineered (GE) crops, three other California counties resoundingly rejected similar proposals. The good people of Butte, San Luis Obispo, and Humboldt counties dealt a blow to groups like the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) and the deceptively-named Center for Food Safety, which seek to ban all GE foods in California and beyond. Sad to say, while the activists may have lost this time, we haven’t seen the last of these Chicken Little scaremongers and their anti-technology campaigns.
“It’s a good day for Butte County,” California rice farmer Doug Rudd told the Sacramento Bee. “We knew that if they could pass it here, it was going to go right on down the state.” But the enemies of progress may “go right on down the state” anyway. Despite losing three of four contests, OCA declared in a press release: “Marin county’s decision is the next step in creating a statewide ban on genetically engineered crops.”
California’s movement to outlaw biotech crops by ballot initiative began in March, when a group called GMO Free Mendocino launched a campaign to pass an anti-biotech measure in Mendocino County. The strategy was simple: Take the path of least resistance. Without a single biotech crop under cultivation, Mendocino was an easy starting point.
This time around, local farmers raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to defeat these misguided measures. By contrast, the Sacramento Bee reported that in Butte County nearly two-thirds of the anti-GMO budget came from the Washington, DC-based OCA. It would seem that Chicken Little has out-of-state friends with deep pockets.
For all their efforts to stem the tide of anti-biotech zealotry, farmers have only won a temporary victory. Measures to ban biotech crops are gathering steam in Sonoma, Santa Barbara, and Alameda counties. And California isn’t alone. Next month, activists from Vermont to Hawaii will gather at the Genetic Engineering Action Network conference in Colorado to discuss the next step in their technophobic campaign to push America’s farmers back into the 19th century.