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Date:

November 3, 2004

Subject:

AgBioView News Flash: California Voters Reject Engineered Crops Ban in Two Counties; One County Decides to Stay Backward

 

Today in AgBioView NewsFlash from www.agbioworld.org : November 3, 2004

* Voters Reject Engineered Crops Ban
* Just One Calif. County Votes In Ban On Gen-Mod Crops
* Two Key Efforts to Ban Biotech Crops Stumble
* California Gives Go-Ahead to Stem-Cell Research
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See Full Results at http://network.ap.org/dynamic/files/elections/2004/general/by_state/ballot_other/CA.html?SITE=CSPANELN&SECTION=POLITICS

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Voters Reject Engineered Crops Ban

- David Sneed, The Tribune (San Luis Obispo), Nov 3, 2004
http://www.sanluisobispo.com/mld/sanluisobispo/news/local/10086890.htm

'The hotly contested measure loses by a wide margin; similar proposals in Butte, Humboldt'

Farmers are free to plant biotech crops in San Luis Obispo County.

With all precincts reporting, voters opposed Measure Q by a wide margin, a ballot initiative that would have banned genetically engineered crops. The issue was hotly contested, generating much discussion about biotech crops and scientific research.

Many agricultural and business organizations opposed the initiative, saying it was overly broad and would hurt their businesses. Jackie Crabb, with the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau, said Tuesday night that the discussion proved valuable, adding that there's still "a lot of education that needs to be done."

Backers of the measure said they will continue to work to educate consumers about biotech crops and continue the discussion about crop safety. "Our ultimate goal is to keep these crops out of the county," said Mike Zelina, a co-coordinator with the Yes-on-Q campaign.

Biotech bans in three other counties had mixed results. Voters in Butte County defeated a similar biotech ban. A ban in Marin County passed by a wide margin, but a Humboldt County initiative failed because of questions about the legality of the measure's language.

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Just One Calif. County Votes In Ban On Gen-Mod Crops

- Paul Elias, Associated Press, Nov 3, 2004
http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/biotech/2004-11-03-calif-biotech_x.htm

SAN FRANCISCO — Agriculture biotechnology made a comeback in California on Tuesday, months after Mendocino County voters passed the nation's first ban of genetically modified crops.

Voters in Humboldt, San Luis Obispo and Butte counties rejected similar ballot measures Tuesday.

Meanwhile, voters in Marin County, a mostly suburban region just across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, did enact their own ban of genetically modified crops. With 100% of the precincts reporting, the ban led 61% to 39%.

The Humboldt County loss was expected because supporters dropped their campaign after complaints that the ballot language contained inaccurate scientific descriptions and also called for the jailing of farmers growing genetically modified crops. With all precincts reporting, the Humboldt measure lost 65% to 35%.

With all precincts in San Luis Obispo County reporting, that measure lost 59-41%.

"Farmers can't be handcuffed with something that is available everywhere but here," said Tom Ikeda, president of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau.

With 48% of precincts reporting, Butte County's biotech ban was losing 63-37%.

"This is simply being outspent by agribusiness," said Renata Brillinger, director of the Californians for GE-Free Agriculture. "People around the state are still mobilizing. It's just going to give them more fuel."

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Two Key Efforts to Ban Biotech Crops Stumble

- Mike Lee, Sacramento Bee, 2:15 am PST Wednesday, November 3, 2004
http://www.sacbee.com/content/politics/story/11304735p-12219803c.html

CHICO - Voters in two key California counties Tuesday night were soundly rejecting ballot measures that would ban the growing of genetically engineered plants. The votes slow the momentum of anti-biotech activists, who plan to seek more bans on the controversial crops.

In the main battleground of Butte County, Measure D was trailing 63 percent to 37 percent with 59 of 183 precincts reporting.

At election headquarters in Chico, Measure D opponents spent the night huddled around the computer waiting for the county to post election results on its Web site. Campaign spokesman Ryan Schohr said the apparent victory was the result of county farm leaders putting aside differences. "We've never come together before like this," he said.

Down the street, a handful of subdued Measure D supporters were holding out hope that results would turn around when urban ballots were counted. Campaign coordinator Susan Sullivan promised to try again. "If we can pull out these numbers in spite of their lies, we have had a phenomenal success," she said.

Butte County is deemed critical by both sides in the national tussle over genetic engineering because it's in the heart of the state's farm country and one of the state's leading rice counties. Biotech companies are looking at rice as one of their next major products.

The other hotly contested anti-biotech plan, in San Luis Obispo County, was losing 58 percent to 42 percent with 84 percent of precincts reporting.

An anti-biotech measure in Marin County was on its way to victory, 61 percent to 39 percent with 94 percent of precincts reporting. Biotech backers never mounted a campaign in Marin, and the county was widely expected to adopt the ban.

Anti-biotech activists in Humboldt County pulled their support of a proposed ban after questions were raised about the legality of sending someone to prison as one of the punishments for growing genetically engineered plants. Measure M was soundly defeated with nearly 65 percent of the vote counted.

The defeat of the three proposed biotech bans is expected to stem, but not stop, anti-biotech activities in California. Residents in at least eight other counties are talking about similar measures, though some may rethink their tactics in the wake of the election.

Biotechnology allows scientists to move genes around in ways not possible in nature by cutting and pasting DNA. Some genetically engineered plants are resistant to weedkillers, and others grow medicinal compounds.

Commercial biotech crops, while never proved dangerous for human health, have been rejected by some consumers around the world. Biotech backers say the novel plants make farming easier and reduce reliance on toxic chemicals. Opponents say they pose environmental threats and give multinational companies control over the food supply through seed contracts.

In March, Mendocino County voters set a national precedent when they agreed to ban biotech crops by a margin of 56 percent to 44 percent, despite a $600,000 campaign mounted by biotech companies. A few months later, Trinity County supervisors followed suit.

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Three Counties Ban Biotech Crops (Sic)

- http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/news/special_packages/election2004/10084074.htm?1c

In Marin County, wine and cheese lovers decided to ban genetically modified crops, while voters in three other counties decided differently. These and other social experiments filled ballots in Northern California.

Months after Mendocino County voters passed the nation's first ban of genetically modified crops, voters in Humboldt, San Luis Obispo and Butte counties rejected similar ballot measures Tuesday. Meanwhile, voters in Marin County approved their own ban by a 61-39 percent margin.

The Humboldt County loss was expected because supporters dropped their campaign after complaints that the ballot language contained inaccurate scientific descriptions and also called for the jailing of farmers growing genetically modified crops. With all precincts reporting, the Humboldt measure lost 65 percent to 35 percent.

With all precincts in San Luis Obispo County reporting, that measure lost 59-41 percent.

"Farmers can't be handcuffed with something that is available everywhere but here," said Tom Ikeda, president of the San Luis Obispo County Farm Bureau.

With 79 percent of precincts reporting, Butte County's biotech ban was losing 61-39 percent.

The measures were placed on their respective ballots after Mendocino voters approved the first such ban in March, despite the biotechnology industry spending more than $600,000 in a failed attempt to defeat it.

The industry's presence in the four counties was almost nonexistent this election, leaving fund raising and organized opposition to local farmers.

The biotech industry argues that such local measures are bad public policy, creating a hodgepodge of red tape in an area already tightly regulated by the federal government.

Supporters argue that biotech crops pose incalculable risks to human health and the environment - contentions the industry strongly disputes.

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California Gives Go-Ahead to Stem-Cell Research

- Wednesday, November 03, 2004

http://www.kfdx.com/news/default.asp?mode=shownews&id=6844

Proposition 71 provides $3 billion in state funding over next decade.

Californians came down on the side of stem-cell research Tuesday by passing a controversial bond measure that devotes $3 billion to human embryonic stem-cell experiments and comprises the biggest-ever state-supported scientific research program in the country. Proposition 71 was approved by a significant margin, NBC News projected.

The passage of the measure — designed to get around the Bush administration’s restrictions on the funding of such research — will likely put California at the forefront of the field and dwarfs all current stem-cell projects in the United States, whether privately or publicly financed.

The measure gained favor in recent days — according to a poll released Sunday, 54 percent of likely voters approved of it.

Two months ago, California voters were split on the measure, according to the Field Research Corp. But Field’s poll conducted last week found approval has grown to 54 percent while 37 percent of those polled were against the measure.

The poll was carried out by telephone, in English and Spanish, with 1,086 randomly selected likely voters statewide. The margin of error was 4.3 percent.

While President Bush opposes most forms of stem-cell research, Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger backed the measure, which funds embryonic stem-cell research at a state level. Federal funding is currently limited to adult stem cells and a few lines of embryonic stem cells, which many scientists say are of poor quality and unfit for research.

$300 million a year
Proposition 71 authorizes the state to sell $3 billion in bonds and then dispense nearly $300 million a year for 10 years to researchers for human embryonic stem-cell experiments, including cloning projects intended solely for research purposes. It bans the funding of cloning to create babies.

The amount of money involved far exceeds the $25 million the federal government doled out last year for such research and surpassed even Sen. John Kerry’s promise to expand funding to $100 million annually.

Many scientists believe stem cells hold vast promise for treating an array of diseases from diabetes to Parkinson’s. Stem cells can potentially grow into any type of human tissue and scientists hope to be able to direct the blank cells to grow into specific cell types needed for transplant.

Stem cells are harvested from embryos, which are destroyed in the process. They were first discovered in 1997 and even the research’s most enthusiastic supporters acknowledge that medicines created with stem cells are still many years away.

Circumventing Bush
A contentious election issue in California, the measure pitted scientists, sympathetic patients who could benefit from stem cells, and biotechnology interests against the Roman Catholic Church and conservatives opposed to the research because it involves destroying days-old embryos and cloning. State budget hawks also opposed the measure because they fear it would sink the state deeper into debt.

Some 22 Nobel laureates and many other scientists supported Proposition 71 as a way to get around the Bush administration restrictions on research. They complain that the political climate has brought the field to a virtual standstill in the United States.

Prominent supporters
Among those who bankrolled the measure was Bill Gates, who contributed $400,000. Silicon Valley tycoons such as Google investor John Doerr and eBay founder Pierre Omidyar donated millions.

Real estate developer Robert Klein II donated $2 million. Klein’s son suffers from juvenile diabetes.

Several prominent Republicans also endorsed the research, most notably former first lady Nancy Reagan. Millionaire developer Thomas Coleman, a regular contributor to GOP candidates, donated $378,000. Coleman’s daughter has diabetes.

The measure was also endorsed by actor Michael J. Fox, who has Parkinson’s, and the late Christopher Reeve, who was paralyzed in a riding accident.