Backers turn in nearly double required signatures for ballot
Over 8,500 signatures collected by the Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt are being verified by the Humboldt County Elections Office to see if GMO restrictions will appear on the ballot this fall.
The Humboldt County Genetic Contamination Prevention Ordinance would prohibit “propagating, cultivating, raising or growing” genetically modified organisms that the ordinance defines as “being produced by manipulating DNA in a laboratory to overcome natural reproductive barriers.” The ordinance would not prevent food made with genetically engineered ingredients from being sold in local grocery stores.
According to the elections office, 4,387 valid signatures are required to put the ordinance on the ballot. The committee submitted almost double that number on April 22. Humboldt County Assistant Registrar of Voters Kelly Sanders said the office has 30 business days to see if the signatures check out.
“If they do, we’ll notify the county Board of Supervisors, who will direct us to put the measure on the ballot for the November election,” Sanders said.
Humboldt County 3rd District Supervisor Mark Lovelace said he’s heard from both sides of the issue.
“There are a lot of agriculture producers who feel they will be able to market their products better if the county is known as GMO-free,”Lovelace said.“I’ve heard corn is one of the most commonly genetically modified crops out there, so the ordinance passing would present certain challenges for local producers to find non-GMO strains of corn to work in our climate. But non-GMO corn was grown here long before GMOs existed, so if the measure did come to be, old practices would have to be recreated.”
If the ordinance is passed, the Agricultural Commissioner’s Office will be responsible for enforcement, Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Dolf said.
“Now that the committee has submitted signatures, we will being developing reporting procedures and policies for enforcing the ordinance,” Dolf said.“Our office wants to make sure, if the ordinance does pass, we’re able to have varieties of corn that mature quickly enough in our climate and make good quality livestock feed for our dairy farmers. It’s important we’re able to locally produce as much livestock feed as we can since it’s expensive to import it.”
Jillian Singh can be reached at 441-0509 or Jsingh@times-standard.com