Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Catching up on the GMO debate

What debate? There doesn't seem to be much debating going on right now concerning the pending GMO ban which all of us will be able to vote on this November. Unfortunately, there was a radio interview on KSRO just this last week, but I missed it due to other commitments...

But as I mentioned in an earlier post, I find it odd that the anti-GMO proponents who claim to champion this measure to promote "a public decision, decided after rigorous, public scientific review and extensive public debate" as stated in §3(c) of the initiative, are so quiet...
To date I've seen little from them, save a quote here or there by Dave Solnit [Campaign Manager of the GE Free Sonoma County group (GEFSC)], and a single bumper sticker.

But wait!
Maybe that's why they want to shift the burden of proof of any proposed progressive GMO to the party that wants to use it...they don't have anything that even resembles rigorous public scientific review...in fact most everything I've seen from it (proponents of the GMO ban) so far lacks any sort of substance, and is nothing more than anecdotal in nature.

Hoping to stoke up some discussion, here are a few letters to the editor (most appear against the initiative), and a few articles that have popped up recently:

Unjust GMO bans Santa Rosa Press Democrat Letters, 6/6/2005
Altered food " " 6/13/2005
Dangerous initiative " " 6/16/2005
Local farmers " " 6/17/2005
Patented crops " " 7/13/2005
Absurd initiative " " 7/15/2005
Flawed initiative " " 7/16/2005
Deemed safe " " 7/17/2005

GMO ban vote likely to get boost Santa Rosa Press Democrat 6/14/2005
Genetically engineered debate now next door NapaNews.com 6/25/2005

One of my favorite bits of "bull" that I've heard so far is from a CBS interview with Dave Solnit (of GEFSC) :

"The only people who benefit from genetically engineering crops are the stock holders of Monsanto," Solnit said. "It really does nothing long-term for the farmer."
HA! What about all the people we feed now days with improved crop yields and improved nutrition from those crops. That statement flies in the face of the entire Green Revolution of the latter half of the 20th century...and is in stark disagreement with many farmers who have to apply less pesticides when growing GE crops. Farmers can grow more food, and do it in a way which is gentler to the environment.
BTW - that quote really doesn't sell their argument at all - in fact it just demonstrates how narrow minded they are.

Another one of the items cited by GEFSC in favor of their initiative is the "precautionary principle". Essentially, the "principle" is supposed to shift the burden of proving safety to the GMO corporations (or individuals) who wish to introduce them (which is where it already lays). Unfortunately, the standard of proof required by the anti-GMO groups is set impossibly high (items must be demonstrated to have "zero" harmful qualities), and rhetoric is used to whip up any minor doubts into full fledged "dangers"...

Witness this from the initiative's §4(c): "Any act in violation of...this Ordinance is declared to constitute an imminent endangerment of agricultural health and environmental health and as such is declared a public nuisance".

Let's hear that one again..."an imminent endangerment of agricultural health and environmental health"...and that's anything that's had any modification, regardless of whether it's a medicine, vaccine, etc. EVERYTHING must be avoided, condemned and destroyed. Where's the enlightened discourse on the merits of each individual proposal? EVERY application should be evaluated on it's own merits, not lumped together in this soup of fear the enviro-fundamentalists want to feed us. Even the EU has recently rethought it restrictions on GMO food research, as they've found that the number of research applications have dropped drastically and now are starting to fear they will be dependent on other nations for those products & technologies.

Are we really ready to throw the baby out with the bathwater? And because our hands will be tied by this new ordinance, so we'll only have 5 business days to start the eradication process of anything even accused of being GMO tainted - we can't be sure if perhaps there was some golden nugget of future technology which we'll squelch when it's thrown out with the rest of it.

What a witch hunt this could turn into!

It appears that any citizen could make the accusation that their neighbor is using tainted crops, then sue the Ag Commissioner to get an investigation. It also appears to be incumbent upon the accused grower & Ag Commissioner to then prove otherwise. What a rip off. And there's also a provision to allow for any and all individuals to file suit against the Agricultural Commissioner - see here, §8:

This Ordinance hereby creates and vests a right in all citizens of the County of Sonoma to sue the Agricultural Commissioner to compel compliance with this Ordinance. All actions shall be filed in the California Superior Court, County of Sonoma. Citizen-Plaintiffs shall provide written notice to the Agricultural Commissioner of their intent to sue, and shall give the Agricultural Commissioner five (5) business days to initiate the enforcement of this Ordinance...

Great. Wonderful. Brilliant. So now a bunch of suit-happy enviro-fundamentalists can run to the Superior Court every time their knickers get in a twist.

Where is the moderate approach to this issue? Where is the ability to differentiate between those organisms which provide enough potential benefits and low risks from any others which don't? This initiative isn't about giving the public a voice and choice over what goes on in Sonoma County...it's about stripping any possible voice from the public and forcing them into a lock-step with some environmentalists who, quite frankly, have gone so far 'left' they've come full circle back around to the 'right'.

I foresee some serious gridlock in our courts if this initiative passes, as every 'armchair environmental expert' in Sonoma County takes a bead on the Ag Commissioner...


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