What’s a GMO?
A GMO (genetically modified organism) is the result of a laboratory process using artificial means to create combinations that would not occur naturally in nature. The most common of these methods is recombinant DNA in which DNA is artificially added to the genome of an organism or a cell. With this technology scientist take genes from one species and manually inserting them into another in an attempt to obtain a desired trait or characteristic, hence they are also known as transgenic organisms. This process may be called either Genetic Engineering (GE) or Genetic Modification (GM); they are one and the same. For more info click here.
Will this initiative effect hybrids or any the other improved varieties that I presently grow?
No, this initiative will not effect the hybrids and improved varieties presently grown in the county. Genetic engineering is completely different from traditional breeding and carries unique risks. In traditional breeding it is possible to mate a pig with another pig to get a new variety, but is not possible to mate a pig with a potato or a mouse. Even when species that may seem to be closely related do succeed in breeding, the offspring are usually infertile. A horse, for example, can mate with a donkey, but the offspring (a mule) is sterile.
With genetic engineering, scientists can breach species barriers set up by nature. For example, they have spliced fish genes into tomatoes. The results are plants (or animals) with traits that would be virtually impossible to obtain with natural processes, such as crossbreeding or grafting.
How do I know if I am planting GMOs? It is difficult to know. If the seed is organic, it is not a GMO. There are tests available now for seeds to see if they are a GMO. There are also many companies that have taken the Safe Seed Pledge.
Isn’t this just another regulation that that will be a burden to farmers? On the contrary, this initiative is designed to protect our farmers rights to farm as they have for generations. More and more mainland farmers feel that they were conned and trapped into planting GMO seed, regretting that they ever got involved with GMO’s. This ordinance prevents our local farmers from ever becoming entrapped in the GMO fiasco. Farmers still have freedom to plant any of their own seed, any heirloom or open source seed, and any patented seed that is not a GMO.
Even if farmers don’t want a GM crop, pollen from nearby GM crops can contaminate their fields. In fact, virtually all heritage varieties of corn in Mexico (the origin of all corn) have been found to have some contamination. GMO’s cannot ever be taken back out of the environment once they have been introduced. This ordinance actually protects our local farmers from further burdening. For more info check out The Farmer’s Guide to GMO’s.
Will this cost the county money? The ordinance does not create or require any new bureaucratic agencies, regulations, or costs for enforcement. Instead, the ordinance defines a violation as a “public nuisance” and relies on the existing framework already in place for dealing with public nuisance issues. Moreover, if a person knowingly and willfully violates the ordinance, that person will be held responsible for the cost of enforcement incurred by the county.
How will this be enforced? The ordinance contains enforcement provisions, including possible civil and criminal penalties, in order to ensure that the ordinance has some “teeth” and is not just a policy statement.
The enforcement provisions, however, are intended to help achieve compliance through education and voluntary actions before imposing punitive measures. Thus, the ordinance provides that before any penalty is imposed, there must be notice of a possible violation, the opportunity to present evidence that there is no violation, or to voluntarily destroy and remove the genetically modified organisms. If a person unknowingly violates the ordinance, but then takes voluntary action to destroy and remove the genetically modified organisms, no penalty may be imposed.
What happens if I accidentally plant GMOs? The consequences for persons in violation of this ordinance apply only if the planting of GMO seed was intentional in defiance of the ordinance.
How will this benefit our county? GMO-free seed and organic seed crops offer the best return on dollar investment by a farmer. GMO-free honey and organic honey is disappearing from the mainland, due to the fact that a bee cannot be trained to stay away from a GMO plant. GMO free crops will continue to bring top dollar to local farmers.
Why the concern?
Because living organisms have natural barriers to protect themselves against the introduction of DNA from a different species, genetic engineers have to find ways to force the DNA from one organism into another. The technology of genetic engineering is currently very crude. It is not possible to insert a new gene with any accuracy, and the transfer of new genes can disrupt the finely controlled network of DNA in an organism.
Current understanding of the way in which DNA works is extremely limited, and any change to the DNA of an organism at any point can have side effects that are impossible to predict or control. The new gene could, for example, alter chemical reactions within the cell or disturb cell functions. This could lead to instability, the creation of new toxins or allergens, and changes in nutritional value. Economic interests have pushed it onto the market too soon.
Give me some examples of GMO’s?
It is now possible for plants to be engineered with genes taken from bacteria, viruses, insects, animals or even humans. Scientists have worked on some interesting combinations:
Spider genes were inserted into goat DNA, in hopes that the goat milk would contain spider web protein for use in bulletproof vests.
Cow genes turned pigskins into cowhides.
Jellyfish genes lit up pigs’ noses in the dark.
Arctic fish genes gave tomatoes and strawberries tolerance to frost.
Potatoes that glowed in the dark when they needed watering.
Human genes were inserted into corn to produce spermicide.
Current field trials include:
Corn engineered with human genes (Dow)
Sugarcane engineered with human genes (Hawaii Agriculture Research Center)
Corn engineered with jellyfish genes (Stanford University)
Tobacco engineered with lettuce genes (University of Hawaii)
Rice engineered with human genes (Applied Phytologics)
Corn engineered with hepatitis virus genes (Prodigene)
What is the point, then, of GMO seed? Although there are attempts to increase nutritional benefits or productivity of GMO seed, the two main traits that have been added to date are herbicide tolerance and the ability of the plant to produce its own pesticide. These results have no health benefit, only economic benefit. Herbicide tolerance lets the farmer spray weed-killer directly on the crop without killing it.
Crops such as Bt cotton produce pesticides inside the plant. This kills or deters insects, saving the farmer from having to spray pesticides. The plants themselves are toxic, and not just to insects. Farmers in India, who let their sheep graze on Bt cotton plants after the harvest, saw thousands of sheep die! Moreover, “super weeds” have now developed among Monsanto’s GMO canola crops that their RoundUp can no longer kill. Genetic engineers continually encounter unintended side effects ï¿½ GM plants create toxins, react to weather differently, contain too much or too little nutrients, become diseased or malfunction and die.
What is happening with GM foods in the rest of the world?
All over the world, regions and even nations are demanding an end to GM crop cultivation. Twenty-two countries in Europe have regions wanting to be GM-free. States in Australia, regions in New Zealand and Brazil, the countries of Venezuela, Zambia, Sudan, Angola, and others, all want to be GM-free. Thus, world markets are shrinking.
In 2009, Germany joined France, Hungary, Italy, Greece, Austria, Poland and Romania in banning Monsanto’s Mon 810 GM corn because of its documented hazards to biodiversity and human health. In 2007 over three million Italians signed a petition, declaring their opposition to GM crops in their country. In Europe over 175 regions and over 4,500 municipalities have declared themselves GM-free zones. In Spain alone this includes over 50 municipalities and regions like Asturias, the Canary Islands and the Basque country.
Europe has greater rejection of GMOs due to a more balanced reporting by their press on the health and environmental dangers. In Europe, at least 174 regions, more than 4,500 councils and local governments have declared themselves GM free.