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[SANET-MG] Santa Cruz County outlaws genetically engineered plants
San Fransisco Chronicle
Santa Cruz County outlaws genetically engineered plants
COMMENT: Laws governing commercial produce critical, but backyard crops
may still be at risk
Deborah Rich, Special to The Chronicle
Saturday, June 24, 2006
Monsanto's purchase of Seminis, the world's largest developer of fruit
and vegetable seeds, in 2005 is probably part of a push to extend
genetic engineering technology into commercially grown fruits and
Under such brands as Seminis, Asgrow, Petoseed and Royal Sluis, Seminis
supplies 3,500 seed varieties to 155 countries.
In the 1990s, soon after Monsanto developed the ability to cut bacteria
genes and paste them into corn and soybean genomes, the company went on
a buying spree, scooping up regional and national corn and soybean seed
companies. Monsanto now dominates the biotech industry with its seeds or
licensed traits present on 88 percent of the acreage planted with
genetically engineered crops worldwide.
Without state regulation, when engineered fruits and vegetables reach
the market, consumers who don't want them will have to buy organic.
But even organic and backyard produce may not be safe. DNA from
engineered plants has spread over longer distances than previously
expected and contaminated regular crops through wind and pollinators
such as animals, birds and people.
Under current federal law not even genetically engineered seed has to be
labeled. Conceivably, growers could unknowingly buy and plant
genetically engineered seed. (Bags of seeds of varieties genetically
engineered to produce their own toxins do have to bear a label
identifying active and inactive ingredients.)
The inadequacies of federal regulations are becoming increasingly
apparent. In December 2005 the Department of Agriculture reported that
its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service -- the agency charged
with controlling and monitoring genetically engineered test plots --
frequently does not know where genetically engineered tests are planted,
if pollen containment protocols are in place or how test material is
being disposed of.
And although genetically engineered modifications of fruits and
vegetables important to the state's agriculture are poised to enter the
field, California has no laws or regulations governing genetically
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