ASPB opposes ban of GE crops in Butte County Ballot Measure D

10/07/04

Measure D's proposed GE crops ban is a step backwards for science and agriculture

The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), today urged Butte County, California voters to vote "no" on Measure D on the November ballot. Passage of Measure D would ban the growing of genetically engineered crops in the county. ASPB said in a letter to Butte County Board of Supervisors today that "Passage of Measure D would mark a historic step backwards for science and agriculture for Butte County and the state."

The letter to the Butte County Board of Supervisors was sent by ASPB President Roger Hangarter, Professor at Indiana University, and ASPB Committee on Public Affairs Chair Pamela Ronald, Professor at the University of Californa, Davis.

Following is the ASPB letter sent to the Butte County Board of Supervisors:

October 7, 2004

Supervisor RJ Beeler
Supervisor Jane Dolan
Supervisor Mary Anne Houx
Supervisor Curt Josiassen
Supervisor Kim Yamaguchi
Butte County Board of Supervisors

25 County Center Drive
Oroville, CA 95965

Dear Supervisors Beeler, Dolan, Houx, Josiassen and Yamaguchi:

The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB), urges you and your fellow voters in Butte County to vote "no" on proposed Butte County ordinance Measure D in November. Passage of Measure D would mark a historic step backwards for science and agriculture for Butte County and for the state.

As you know, Measure D on the Butte County November ballot would declare that the propagation, cultivation, raising and growing of genetically engineered organisms in Butte County constitute a public nuisance pursuant to the existing Butte County code. Further, the proposed ordinance would provide that the growing of genetically engineered organisms does not constitute "Legitimate Agricultural Operations," which are exempted from the type of activities that can be designated as a public nuisance, pursuant to the county code.

The proposed ordinance would define "genetically engineered organism" as an organism or the offspring of an organism, the DNA of which has been altered or amended through genetic engineering.

A review of the scientific literature shows that genetically engineered foods are as safe as foods that are not genetically engineered. For example, the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine of the National Academies published a study this year which found no unique risk from genetically engineered foods compared to traditionally bred food crops. The report can be read on the National Academies web site at http://www.nap.edu/books/0309092094/html/

There are instances in which genetic engineering can produce healthier and safer foods than can be accomplished using traditional plant breeding technologies. Researchers based in California (University of California, Berkeley) have genetically engineered hypo-allergenic wheat, which will be much safer for people with wheat allergies to consume. Plant science research has resulted in genetically engineered hypo-allergenic soybeans, which will lead to safer soy-based infant formula and other soy food products.

Much lower levels of aflatoxin, a known potential cancer-causing agent, have been found in lines of genetically engineered corn, compared to conventional corn. The reason for this is that the genetically engineered corn is more effective in preventing a particular pest infestation. Genetically engineered rice, known as Golden Rice, with higher levels of beta carotene will address Vitamin A deficiencies in the diets of people in much of the developing world. This enhanced Golden Rice promises to prevent millions of cases of blindness among children of poor nations and help avert many childhood deaths.

The progress of science using modern technologies, such as biotechnology, is leading to genetically engineered foods that will be safer, more nutritious, healthier, and more affordable.

The benefits that genetic engineering of foods offer to the people throughout the world are substantial. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations in a report issued in May of this year found that biotechnology and genetic engineering of crops hold great promise for agriculture in developing countries. The report noted that more than 70 percent of the world's poor still live in rural areas and depend on agriculture for their survival. Agricultural research - including biotechnology - holds an important key to meeting their needs, the FAO said. The FAO added that biotechnology can speed up conventional breeding programs and may offer solutions where conventional methods fail.

If Measure D passes, Butte County, California will be taking a step back into the century just past, denying its farmers discretion to utilize newer technologies for enhanced crops. Passage of measure D is unwarranted based on the best science published concerning the safety of genetically engineered crops.

Founded in 1924, ASPB is a non-profit society of nearly 6,000 plant scientists, including 450 scientists in California, based primarily at universities.

Please let us know if we can provide any further information.

Sincerely,

Roger Hangarter
Professor, Indiana University
President, ASPB

Pamela Ronald
Professor, University of California, Davis
Chair, ASPB Committee on Public Affairs

Source: Eurekalert & others

Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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