Voters Approve Measure P!

EUREKA – The Humboldt County Genetic Contamination Prevention Ordinance, better known as Measure P, has been approved resoundingly by Humboldt County voters. According to final election-night returns posted by the county Elections Office, Measure P received support from more than 59% of voters. The measure bans the raising or growing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in Humboldt County.

“We’re extremely pleased with this result,” said Bill Schaser, a Eureka resident, retired Eureka High science teacher and spokesperson for the campaign. “We’ve said all along that Measure P will be good for Humboldt County – good for our local farmers, good for our environment, good for our economy. Clearly, the voters agreed!”

The ordinance takes effect immediately, although any farmer who has a GMO crop in the ground as of election night will be granted a grace period of about one year to harvest or remove it. Enforcement of the ordinance will be the job of Humboldt County Agricultural Commissioner Jeff Dolf.

During the campaign, proponents argued that Measure P is necessary to support local organic and non-GMO farmers. A large portion of the county’s agricultural sector specializes in those types of higher value products. But farmers can lose access to those markets if GMOs grown nearby contaminate their fields with stray pollen or seeds. Measure P will protect these farmers and has been supported by a large number of local farmers and farm groups. They see it as an opportunity to protect the high-value markets and support the growing economic success of small-scale, sustainable agriculture in the county. Measure P also gained support from groups concerned about the increased use of these agricultural chemicals associated with the cultivation of GMOs.

Schaser continued: “We have received an incredible level of support throughout the course of this all-volunteer, grassroots campaign. Nearly 600 farms, ranches, businesses, organizations and individuals publicly endorsed the campaign. Close to 100 volunteers collected more than 8,500 signatures to get Measure P on the ballot. Many of them continued to work tirelessly in the months leading up to the election to make sure it passed. Many others supported Measure P by making donations, by displaying yard signs and bumper stickers and t-shirts and buttons, and in a lot of other ways, too.”

For more information about Measure P, visit http://www.yesonp2014.org.

Measure P: Last Chance at Local Control

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.”

Colin Fiske: Broad Consensus on Measure P – Vote Yes

From the Times-Standard (10/31/2014):

Reading the media coverage of Measure P, it’s become clear to me that many local reporters, editors and publishers have struggled to find the “news” in this ballot measure.

In our modern media environment, a topic — particularly a political topic — is only newsworthy if there’s some kind of conflict at the center of it.

So the enormous, widespread support for Measure P has been downplayed in the local media, and a small number of critics of the measure have had their voices amplified in an attempt to create a sense of community division and debate that doesn’t really exist.

The truth is that opponents of Measure P are small in number, and they care little enough about the issue that they have failed to even form a political committee to oppose it. In contrast, dozens of dedicated volunteers have spent countless hours in support of Measure P — first to get the measure on the ballot, and now to campaign tirelessly for its passage. Almost 600 farms, ranches, businesses, organizations and individuals care deeply enough about Measure P’s success that they have put their own names on it by publicly endorsing it.

And look around: You’ll see thousands of signs, bumper stickers, buttons, shirts and hats proudly displaying support for Measure P. Chances are, many of the folks displaying them are your friends and neighbors, and if you ask, they’ll tell you why.

And I’ll bet that when they do, you’ll end up voting Yes on P, too.

Colin Fiske, McKinleyville

Chesbro Endorses Measure P

ARCATA – Arcata resident Wesley Chesbro, who represents Humboldt County in the State Assembly, has endorsed Humboldt County’s Measure P.

“I am voting in favor of Measure P because it will send a message that Humboldt County, along with our neighbors in Mendocino and Trinity counties, is committed to sustainable agriculture and we are opposed to uncontrolled, unregulated release of GMO organisms into our environment,” Chesbro said.

In the Legislature this year Chesbro authored successful legislation that protects California’s wild salmon fisheries by banning the commercial production of genetically modified salmon throughout the state. The bill, AB 504, was signed by the governor last month and becomes law Jan. 1.

“GMOs are not compatible with our North Coast commitment to restoring and using our natural resources in a sustainable way,” Chesbro said.

If Measure P is approved, Humboldt County will join neighboring Mendocino and Trinity Counties in prohibiting the cultivation of genetically engineered crops, often called GMOs. Coming on the heels of similar actions by the Yurok Tribe and the Sierra Club, Chesbro’s endorsement shows broad and growing support for Measure P as election day approaches.

“Measure P is about promoting our local agricultural economy and protecting our local environment,” said Bill Schaser, spokesperson for the Measure P campaign. “Forward-thinking elected officials know that this measure will be good for the future of Humboldt County, and we’re happy that many of them have publicly stepped up to support it.” Other elected officials who have endorsed Measure P include Trinidad Mayor Julie Fulkerson, Arcata City Councilmembers Susan Ornelas and Michael Winkler, McKinleyville Community Services District Director George Wheeler, and Third District Supervisor Mark Lovelace. A number of current candidates for local office have also expressed their support in recent statements and interviews.

GMOs are produced by manipulating DNA in a laboratory to overcome natural reproductive barriers.  The resulting organisms contain genetic codes which could not have been created through natural processes. The most widespread GMOs today are crop plants engineered to resist the effects of certain herbicides or to produce their own insecticides.

For more information about Measure P, visit www.yesonp2014.org. For more information about Assemblymember Chesbro, visit http://asmdc.org/members/a02/.

Todd Heiler: Measure P Supports Small Businesses

From the North Coast Journal (10/22/2014):

Editor:

For too long we in Humboldt County have largely depended on the timber industry to be the main engine of our economy. As a consequence of this, we live in an area of high unemployment with a weak and unstable economy. A yes vote on Measure P will insure that organic farmers and others are able to exploit a unique economic niche and diversify our local economy. We as a community must support further development and protection of organic products. By passing this measure we will have yet another economic engine to depend on.

We have to protect organic farmers from GMO products that will be carried by winds and animals to their land. Even if there is no contamination large agricultural businesses like Monsanto can sue if a GMO takes root and grows. All well-informed and rational voters are aware that large ag businesses have the financial means and the lawyers to do this. As Americans we value the free market and competition principles of our economy. Measure P will level the playing field. Often there is talk about supporting small businesses. This measure does that. If you value having a free market and giving small farmers what they need to remain competitive, you must go out and vote yes on Measure P.

Your voting yes on this measure is a way to support greater economic stability for the community you live in. I for one love living here and I am voting yes because I take pride in this community and want to insure a bright future for Humboldt County. Let’s all vote yes on Measure P and show our support for the growth and protection of organic farming as another source of economic prosperity.

Todd Heiler, Ferndale

 

George Stevens: Measure P is Our Best Chance for Sustainability

From the North Coast Journal (10/22/2014):

Editor:

I am a small farmer dedicated to saving our open-pollinated (non-GMO) seed heritage here since 1991, and feeding 50 to 100 families via direct marketing practically year round. I was heartened by all the letters in support of Measure P to the Journal last week.

Contamination of crops and seeds, expensive testing, and related patent infringement lawsuits, environmental/ health consequences, biotech industry influence upon elections, government agencies and academia, and poor media coverage (of all the above) are a big concern for small farmers and food-related businesses.

Measure P is an opportunity for Humboldt County and our whole region to grow our local economies, to provide affordable high quality nutrition for our children, elders and the needy, increase our local food security and employment, and forge a solution to the impending climate crisis, which is largely driven by industrial agriculture.

We’ve had three exceptional speakers on these issues and their presentations have been aired on Access Humboldt TV and the Internet for all to see. There is a small group of ideologues trying to stir up reactionary sentiments about Measure P, but they failed to address any of the significant facts presented by Ray Seidler, Michael Hansen, Ignacio Chapela or to engage in open debate.

Farmers are understandably reluctant to speak publicly about GMOs: It’s like having to explain a black eye. Our once noble profession has been dumbed down to an all-time low by this disruptive, devious technology which is steadily invading and polluting our crops, livestock, food and natural environment. For generations farmers have been subjected to a relentless cost-price squeeze due to relentless speculation, futures trading and dysfunctional government regulation.

Measure P is our best chance for sustainability for present and future generations here on the North Coast of California. Let’s get this done and get back to making life work!

George H Stevens, Willow Creek

Bill Schaser: Attempts to Derail Measure P Quite Pathetic

From the Times-Standard (10/23/2014):

Attempts to derail Measure P quite pathetic

Support for Measure P is strong, and opponents have had little success convincing the voters it’s a bad idea. So we shouldn’t be surprised that they’ve suddenly abandoned arguments over the merits of the measure in favor of nitpicking the language. It’s a classic last-ditch political ploy.

Perhaps the most cynical claim of opponents, repeated by this paper’s editors (“Humboldt County’s Measure P is more harm than good,” Times-Standard, Oct. 18, Page A4), is that Measure P would prohibit the vaccination of animals.

This is absolutely false. No reasonable person would assert that when a veterinarian vaccinates an animal, he or she is “propagating” a genetically engineered virus — just the opposite, in fact!

But to really put this whole silly argument to bed, look no further than Trinity and Mendocino counties, and Humboldt’s own city of Arcata.

Each of these places has had ordinances similar to Measure P on the books for a decade, and all of those ordinances contain the same language that opponents find so objectionable in Measure P. Yet no one living in these places has had trouble vaccinating a pet in the last 10 years. (Your readers in Arcata certainly aren’t living in fear of unvaccinated rabid dogs!) I am confident that the voters of Humboldt County will see through the attempts to cast doubt and confusion.

They can find out the truth for themselves at yesonp2014.org, but I’ll summarize: Measure P will be good for Humboldt County, and it deserves your vote.

—Bill Schaser, spokesman, Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt — Yes on Measure P