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Column: Meet the new bully at Western Farm Press

"Biotech Bullies Slander OCA & Growing Biodemocracy Alliance in California."

"Help the OCA Fight the Counter-Attack by Monsanto and the Farm Bureau"

I have been called many things during my 40-year journalism career, but never a bully. I was absolutely thrilled at my new moniker in the headline on the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) Web site. Made me feel young again. Being called a bully at my age is like getting a free six-pack of Viagra.

Those headlines were tattooed on articles from the last edition of Western Farm Press detailing the radical anti-GMO movement in California. (My e-mail was also kept busy with many responses to the articles)

OCA is the group out to convince everyone opposition to herbicide and pest-resistant crops is a local, grassroots, California movement. If the case, why doesn’t OCA ask that checks be sent to local committees. Read on.

OCA calls the WFP articles and commentary "a vicious attack in the corporate agribusiness farm journal, Western Farm Press, on the Biodemocracy Alliance and the OCA--accusing us, among other things, of fear-mongering and eco-terrorism But we will not be libeled nor intimidated. Corporate agribusiness and the Gene Giants are attacking us, not because they are confident, but because they are scared. We and the people of the world are starting to win the battle against GMOs and usher in a new era of safe food, family farms, and a sustainable environment. But we need your support to defend Mendocino and Trinity's victories, as well as to spread BioDemocracy across California and the Americas. Please take the time now to send us a donation."

Now don’t everyone reach for their checkbooks at the same time to support this "local" California group.

Couple of points about the invigorating headlines. There is only one "bully" at Western Farm Press. Monsanto does not work here. And, it is no secret the California Farm Bureau Federation is not one of this editor’s favorites. FB’s lobbying record on behalf of agriculture is dismal. It whines constantly about how agriculture is mistreated in Sacramento rather than trying to forage solutions to problems. It is also interesting to note that the Mendocino County Farm Bureau did not oppose the initiative in the home county of the state Farm Bureau president.

Ag groups in Sacramento say after the $600,000 loss in Mendocino, they have backed away from any organized, corporate funded opposition to these radical anti-GMO initiatives. They are letting state Farm Bureau try to generate agricultural grassroots opposition to anti-biotech movements. Expect a lot of whining from Sacramento FB, but not much leadership. However, several county Farm Bureau chapters have stepped up to oppose these initiatives, more specifically Butte County.

OCA is ramrodding the November ballot initiatives to ban genetically engineered organisms in San Luis Obispo, Marin, Humboldt and Butte. They tried for initiatives in other counties as well.

OCA and its splinter group, Biodemocracy Alliance, are pounding their chests over the "wins" in Mendocino and Trinity counties. However, there were significant differences between the two.

Mendocino County was a voter-approved initiative. Trinity is an ordinance. The activists took the Mendocino initiative to Trinity for a rubber stamp. They did not get it. Legally, the law passed by Mendocino voters in the spring would not fly in Trinity. Trinity County agricultural commissioner Mark Lockhart told the county council he could not seize crops, biotech or otherwise, without due process as is the case in Mendocino’s law.

For that and other reasons, the Trinity County council modified the ordinance proposed by the anti-GMO group. Trinity’s board of supervisors passed the anti-genetically engineered crop ordinance on a 3-1 vote. The radicals ran up the victory flag and left town — in a leaky rubber raft.

The Minnesotans might want to keep their maps to Trinity County handy because an ordinance can be changed or rescinded much quicker and easier than a voter-passed initiative.

Trinity County said let’s wait for the dust settle. The jury is still out. If in the future biotechnology benefits Trinity County, the board of supervisors can change or throw out the ordinance. The radicals just thought they had a victory. They were duped.

There will be a lot of press replete with propaganda from the OCA bashing corporate America and biotech food between now and November. However, there are two very important points to remember. One is that biotech crops are here forever. Millions of acres worldwide are in biotech crops, and all indications are that it will increase. Biotech crops are growing in acceptance worldwide, contrary to what the radicals say.

Agricultural biotechnology is probably the most scrutinized technology ever introduced into farming, again contrary to what radicals say. Just look at the number of government agencies in the U.S. and worldwide which have reviewed the science and approved its use. In the U.S. alone at least three cabinet level government agencies examine each biotech crop before it is approved for planting. And there are the state agencies involved in the regulatory process.

Pass all the county anti-biotech initiatives and ordinances you want, neither reasonable court nor legislature will allow a county or city ordinance to supersede federal or state law. You think any government agency or legislative body in California will tell farmers to destroy more than 600,000 acres of crops because a bunch of radicals don’t like corporations.

Does that mean this California anti-GMO movement is a farce or a charade by radicals looking for another cause? (Go to OCA’s Web site and see that it does not limit its socialist philosophy to biotech agriculture).

It is not a joke. It is serious business because of the public perception of biotechnology that will be left in its wake. Unfortunately, it will not be good. And it could slow down progress, but it will not stop it.

Agriculture must take a bold stand, even if the anti-GMO crowd may only win symbolic victories like Trinity and Mendocino.

It will take boldness from everyone demonstrated by the California rice industry. The California Rice Commission voted unanimously to oppose the anti-GMO initiative in Butte County.

It was a gutsy vote.

California rice growers put many of their markets on the line with the vote. The primary tool that the anti-biotech crowd uses to further their cause is to frighten countries into banning GMO crops. In too many cases it has worked.

California rice growers could lose markets over the vote to oppose the Butte County initiative, despite the fact the rice industry has one of the most stringent crop segregation systems in California already in place, partly to segregate different rice types but biotech rice as well.

It was bold. It was courageous. It told the out-of-state bunch that it was not going to be easy to fool people in Butte County. It was a boldness that should be repeated by every agricultural organization in this state.

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