Measure P, on this fall’s ballot, is a grassroots initiative to prohibit the raising or growing of genetically modified organisms, usually called GMOs, in Humboldt County. GMO crops are produced by the world’s major chemical corporations, and the vast majority are engineered to withstand the effects of the toxic herbicides sold by those same companies. Unsurprisingly, the widespread planting of these crops in recent years has led to vast increases in the amounts of herbicides applied to cropland—and correspondingly increased rates of evolution of herbicide-resistant “super-weeds.” Now, the same companies are pushing new seeds resistant to ever more toxic chemical cocktails. Measure P will help keep Humboldt County off this “toxic treadmill.”
Sustainable agriculture is a way of life on many of Humboldt County’s farms. Increasingly, it’s also the economic niche and marketing mainstay of our agricultural economy as a whole. From the rapid rise in popularity of organic certification among our local dairies to the direct marketing of sustainably raised vegetables at our local farmers markets, Humboldt’s farms are both blazing a trail toward a more sustainable future and poised to take advantage of the growing local and global demand for sustainable products. It’s a phenomenon that benefits both our local environment and our local economy.
Certified organic agriculture is only one part of this move toward sustainability, but it’s a big part. And, although GMOs are strictly prohibited in organic agriculture, stray pollen and seeds from GMO crops grown in open fields can contaminate the crops of certified organic producers, sometimes for miles around. A report by the non-profit Food & Water Watch in March of this year revealed that many organic farmers have been forced to take serious, cost-increasing measures such as delayed planting in an effort to avoid such contamination. Despite those measures, more than one-sixth of those surveyed had still been unable to sell their produce at least once due to contamination. If farmers are forced to abandon organic certification because of unavoidable GMO contamination, it’s not only the farmers but also the natural environment which will bear the brunt of a return to conventional agriculture.
There are other compelling environmental reasons to support Measure P as well. The North Coast Chapter of the California Native Plant Society outlined one of them in its statement explaining its own endorsement of Measure P: “[O]ur concern remains the unintentional spread of GMO pollen and genes with the potential negative impact on wild (native) plants, as almost no research has been done to document these impacts.” In other words, GMOs are novel genomes which, when introduced into wild ecosystems, have the potential to act invasively and “may overwhelm native species.” The CNPS statement cites the well-documented example of genetically engineered creeping bentgrass cross-pollinating with native species and spreading in Eastern Oregon. With more GMO grasses, as well as fishes, trees, and other organisms currently nearing commercialization, the risk to our wild ecosystems is very real.
With all of this in mind, it’s no surprise that Measure P has been endorsed by our county’s leading environmental groups, including the California Native Plant Society, the Northcoast Environmental Center, and the Environmental Protection Information Center, as well as our sustainable agriculture organizations, including the North Coast Growers Association and the Redwood Coast Region of the Community Alliance with Family Farmers. To learn more about Measure P, and to read the full text of the measure, please visit www.yesonp2014.org. And don’t forget to vote Yes on Meaure P November 4th!
Colin Fiske is Co-organizer and Assistant Treasurer, Committee for a GMO Free Humboldt—Yes on Measure P.