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Column: Swimsuits optional at anti-GE leader's farm

OK you farmers out there growing biotech cotton and corn. You are contaminating your neighbor’s crops. The EPA, FDA and USDA and every agricultural corporation in American has led you astray. So plow those crops under now.

There are 1,700 unmonitored test trials of biotech crops in California that pose a contamination threat to one of the most productive agricultural areas in the world.

America should immediately begins a time warp journey back to an agrarian society where everyone has their little patch of organic vegetables to feed mom and dad and the dozen or so kids.

That is basically the philosophy of Dave Hanson, the director of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center (OACE) and campaign manager behind the GE-Free Sonoma ballot initiative. OAEC has kicked in about $200,000 to GE-Free California as well. This qualifies Hanson as a leader in the statewide effort to ban Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) as well.

OACE is an 80-acre farm northeast of Bodega Bay in Sonoma County that "addresses the challenges of creating democratic communities that are ecologically, economically and culturally sustainable in an increasingly privatized and corporatized economy and culture," according to its Web site, which also says "swimsuits are optional in the hot tub, sauna and pond areas." Folks pay from $25 to more than $1,000 to attend classes at OACE.

Now, Dave is not going to like that description. I spent an hour on the phone with him recently. He objected to my last commentary. He is a passionate, articulate fellow who does not want his tomatoes and lettuce and whatever else is grown on OACE to be contaminated by GMO crop pollen. He is trying to convince Sonoma County voters to declare a 10-year moratorium on GMO crops in his county until he and those he deem trustworthy conclude biotech crops are safe and will not contaminate his organic lettuce grown where swimsuits are optional.

He is happy to let the rest of us with swimsuits on to be contaminated by cotton, corn, alfalfa and other biotech crops, but not in his county. He wants to save Sonoma County’s ecosystem from "irreversible genetic contamination."

He can debate all day long on the subject. I asked him what his educational background was to debate the subject. He did not acknowledge having a college degree. He said he has taken ecology classes and testified before congressional committees. He is quick to cite all the places he has spoken and lectured, mostly on the North Coast.

He says these terrible biotech companies are sneaking around California with almost 2,000 unmonitored trials creating biotech trees, lawns, farm animals, apples, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, squash, peas, peppers and persimmons to palm off on unsuspecting farmers and the public without any regard for public health or errant GMO pollen. Watch out for the flood of biotech persimmons!

Like I said, Dave and I had a very long phone call. I respect his passion. However, you no doubt will not be surprised to learn we agreed on little, except for when he said the GE-Free Sonoma County ballot issue is "ridiculous" because biotechnology is not a county issue. It is a federal one. Why ask the board of supervisors to spend $500,000 then to hold a worthless referendum.

Dave, as have several leaders in the GE-Free California movement, offered himself as a "resource" to me on this issue. Thanks Dave, but I prefer to remain a sarcastic curmudgeon who thinks this anti-GE movement is being led by folks who play loose with the truth for political or other purposes.

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