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September 12, 2004


Future of agricultural biotechnology in California


-- AgBioView - Sunday, September 12, 2004

Dear Friends from California: I am sure you are aware of the November ballot initiatives in four counties in California to ban GM crops.

I am also sure that all of you recognize the importance of this initiative and the danger it poses to the future of agricultural biotechnology in California. It is imperative that scientists in California communicate the safety and benefits of GM crops to your local media, state legislators and the governor. I have drafted a sample letter below here that you may please use it to develop your own letter and send it to your legislators, local newspaper and the Governor (whose address appears below).




You can email this to the Governor at http://www.govmail.ca.gov/

By snail mail or fax:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: 916-445-2841
Fax: 916-445-4633

You can also locate your state legislator and send this letter at http://www.legislature.ca.gov/legislators_and_districts/legislators/your_legislator.html


Why Californians Must Not Ban Biotech Crops

California leads the country in agricultural production, growing over 350 different crops, and produces more than half of the nation's total of fruits, nuts and vegetables. This state's agricultural innovation is based on the fact that farmers have a choice in determining what method of farming they use - be it growing conventional, biotech or organic crops. Unfortunately, farmers in four counties may be denied the choice to grow the crops they want to. Residents of four counties face November ballot initiatives, born out of misinformation, that call for a ban on the growth of biotech plants in Butte, Humboldt, Marin and San Luis Obispo counties.

Today, tons of biotech crops are grown each year around the world, and eaten by millions of consumers without a single illness or negative impact on human health. This history of food safety is derived from strong and current federal regulations. Biotech crops undergo intense regulatory scrutiny at the federal level, from the research lab, to field trials, to commercial plantings by farmers, to ensure they are safe for the food and the environment. Biotech crops are subject to the extensive, science-based regulations of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Pre-market testing of biotech crops generally takes about 6-12 years at a cost of $6-12 million.

All three federal agencies have found that the biotech crops currently on the market are safe for humans and the environment. The American Medical Association agrees and believes biotech plants have the potential to improve nutrition as well as prevent and even cure disease. Moreover, the World Health Organization believes biotech crops can help developing nations overcome food security problems. And, just last month, the National Academies of Science reported that foods from biotech crops are as safe as any other foods in your supermarket.

In 2001, the European Commission from a fifteen-year year study of 81 projects involving 400 teams reported that "Indeed, the use of more precise technology and the greater regulatory scrutiny probably make them even safer than conventional plants and foods; and if there are unforeseen environmental effects - none have appeared as yet - these should be rapidly detected by our monitoring requirements. On the other hand, the benefits of these plants and products for human health and the environment become increasingly clear."

Biotechnology is being adopted by farmers faster than any innovation that has come before. Since 1996, when the first biotech crops were commercially grown, the global biotech crop area has increased 40-fold to a total of 7 million farmers in 18 countries. In the United States, alone, 105.7 million acres of biotech crops were planted in 2003. In 2002, nearly 33 percent of California's cotton acreage was devoted to biotech varieties. California farmers and the economy have already benefited from agricultural biotechnology - and can continue to do so if only given the opportunity. A National Center for Food & Agricultural Policy (NCFAP) found that if 10 of California's key crops - lettuce, tomatoes, sugar beets, rice, cotton, alfalfa, broccoli, cotton, grapes and apples - were improved through biotechnology, it would increase the state's food and fiber production by 29 million pounds, increase farm income by $206 million and reduce farmer's costs significantly by eliminating an additional 66 million pounds of pesticide use per year.

The scientific community has repeatedly demonstrated that biotech crops and foods are safe for human and animal consumption. The federal government has always maintained strict oversight over biotech crops and has committed to continuing its strong oversight as the technology advances. The high adoption rate of biotech crops shows that when farmers have access to these enhanced crops, they will plant them. Because safety and federal oversight of this technology are ensured, California residents should vote "NO" on banning this option for farmers.