The Sacramento (California) Bee (pg. D2)  [Printer-friendly version]
September 2, 2006


Proposed law would have barred local leaders from nixing modified

By Jim Downing

Environmental and organic farming groups on Friday cheered the demise
of legislation that would have prevented local governments from
regulating genetically modified crops.

Senate Bill 1056, sponsored by Sen. Dean Florez, D-Shafter, was
introduced last year after three California counties effectively
prohibited the farming of biotech crops. The bill passed the Assembly
but did not reach the Senate floor for a final vote before the
legislative session ended at midnight Thursday.

The measure's failure marks a change of momentum in the battle over
controls on genetically modified crops.

In 2004, voters in Mendocino, Trinity and Marin counties banned
biotech crops within their borders. At the same time, a
countermovement to prevent such local regulation emerged.

Ballot measures to ban biotech crops failed in Humboldt, San Luis
Obispo, Butte and Sonoma counties, while several county governments
officially endorsed agricultural biotechnology.

Beginning in late 2004, bills similar to SB 1056 were introduced in
many state legislatures across the country. Since 2005, at least 14
states have passed such legislation, according to Environmental
Commons, a nonprofit group that tracks legislation on agricultural

Recently, however, bills in Nebraska, Missouri and North Carolina --
and now California -- have not passed.

Supporters of the California bill had argued that existing federal
regulation of genetically modified crops is adequate, that a patchwork
of local regulations would make compliance difficult for farmers with
operations in more than one county, and that any additional
restrictions hurt California growers in national and global markets.

"If our farmers are going to be competitive with other states and
other countries... they need to have all the tools available," said
the California Farm Bureau Federation's administrator, George Gomes.
He said it's likely the bill will be reintroduced in the next
legislative session.

Opponents of SB 1056 contended that federal regulations do not do
enough to keep both experimental and production plots of genetically
modified crops from contaminating other farm fields as well as the
surrounding environment. In the absence of state regulations, they
said, local jurisdictions should have the right to impose tighter

On Friday, several groups that fought the bill said they thought its
failure opens an opportunity to push for tougher state controls on
genetically modified crops, such as public notice requirements when
the crops are planted and rules making farmers liable if their crops
contaminate a non-genetically modified field.

The Bee's Jim Downing can be reached at (916) 321-1065 or

Copyright 2006 The Sacramento Bee