New Law Signed by Governor Prohibits Future Local Crop Regulations Without State Permission
SACRAMENTO – If Humboldt County voters don’t pass Measure P this Tuesday, they may not have another chance to regulate GMO crops in the future. A bill passed by the California legislature and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown in August will prohibit local governments from enacting new plant or seed regulations without the state’s permission after January 1 of next year. However, if passed by the voters, Humboldt County’s Measure P will “take effect immediately,” according to the measure’s text, and therefore would not be affected by the new law.
“We’re extremely lucky that Measure P is on the ballot this year and will not be affected by this terrible new law,” said Bill Schaser, spokesperson for Measure P. “But Humboldt County voters should be fully aware: Measure P is likely our last chance to exert local control over what crops are grown in our own county.”
Continued Schaser: “This law was a sneak attack on local democracy. It takes away the right of local communities to regulate plants and seeds as they see fit, and hands that power over to state bureaucrats instead. Yet there was no debate in the legislature about these broad implications. We strongly urge local voters to seize the last opportunity they have for local control by voting ‘yes’ on Measure P.”
AB 2470, sponsored by Assemblymember Rudy Salas (D-Bakersfield), originally consisted mostly of minor changes to existing state laws regulating seed production. However, amendments in the state Senate added the provision in question, which reads in full:
“Notwithstanding any other law, on and after January 1, 2015, a city, county, or district, including a charter city or county, shall not adopt or enforce an ordinance that regulates plants, crops, or seeds without the consent of the secretary [of the California Department of Food and Agriculture]. An ordinance enacted before January 1, 2015, shall be considered part of the comprehensive program of the department and shall be enforceable.”
Observers say that when the bill was discussed in the legislature, it was framed as a regulation pertaining only to invasive plant control, and many legislators likely did not realize its broader implications. Schaser said the Measure P campaign was made aware of the issue just yesterday after an anonymous tip was passed along to local agriculture advocates. It appears that many other agriculture policy groups throughout the state had been similarly unaware of the bill and its far-reaching effects.
“We certainly hope that the legislature will re-visit this law, now that the full impacts are coming to light,” said Schaser. “But we’re not counting on it. Local voters need to seize the opportunity to vote ‘yes’ on Measure P on Tuesday. They may not have that chance again.”