North Coast
North Coast
Indybay Regions North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area North Coast Central Valley North Bay East Bay South Bay San Francisco Peninsula Santa Cruz IMC - Independent Media Center for the Monterey Bay Area California United States International Americas Haiti Iraq Palestine Afghanistan
From the Open-Publishing Calendar
From the Open-Publishing Newswire
Indybay Feature

CA's SB1056 Fails, Communities Retain Right to Shape their Food Systems

by Britt Bailey
As the 2006 California legislature came to a close, environmental and sustainable agriculture advocates breathed a sigh of relief as a controversial bill intended to strip local communities’ rule over seeds and plants was defeated.

SB1056, introduced as a direct response to local governments adopting ordinances restricting the growing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), died as the session came to an end yesterday. Since 2004, four counties (Mendocino, Trinity, Santa Cruz, and Marin) and two cities (Point Arena and Arcata) have acted to prevent the growing of genetically modified seeds. The agribusiness industry, including Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, worried that local regulation of genetically modified crops would hamper the consolidation and expansion of intensive agriculture, have backed and supported the bill removing local authority over seeds and plants.

While stopping local initiatives to regulate genetically modified organisms was squarely the basis for SB1056, the breadth of the preemption bill and its limitation on the democratic rights of citizens created discomfort for local government organizations, community rights advocates, and legislators, as well as for environmental and farming advocates. Referring to SB1056, Senator Wesley Chesbro stated, "First and foremost, it’s anti-democratic to deny local voters the right to speak." Assemblywoman Patty Berg said, " I argued against that bill and I voted against that bill because I think it’s bad for California. If the counties involved in giant agribusiness want to allow GMO crops, that’s their business. But they shouldn’t be able to impose it on the rest of the state, especially not on counties here on the North Coast that are taking a serious look at banning this worrisome technology. Bottom line: if the people don’t want it, it shouldn’t be forced on them."

According to Environmental Commons Director, Britt Bailey, "I am very pleased that California’s local governments will retain the right to shape their food systems. Local food systems build community, improve rural economies, and develop regional character and identity."

SB1056 is at the crux of a fierce, decade-long debate between sustainable agriculture advocates and biotechnology multinationals. Those supporting and protecting sustainable agriculture point to a lack of adequate state and federal regulations protecting foods from the detrimental effects of “genetic pollution," which occurs when an engineered gene enters another species of crop or wild plant through cross-pollination. Vern Goehring, lobbyist for the California Native Plant Society also in opposition to SB1056, affirms the rights of communities to protect their food systems, "Cross pollination from cultivated plants to wild plants is a common occurrence and science has shown that this depends on the individual crop, the wild species in the area, and local environmental conditions. Therefore, it is critical that local communities retain the ability to protect their local economies and natural resources."

In recent weeks news broke that the U.S. food supply has been contaminated with an unapproved variety of genetically engineered rice developed by Bayer Corporation. Japan, South Korea, and Europe immediately placed bans and restrictions on long grain rice imports. The contamination has caused rice futures to fall an estimated $150 million. Californians are likely to see another legislative attempt to preempt local governments in the future. Though, for now, communities can continue to protect their environmental and farming resources.

Add Your Comments

Comments (Hide Comments)
by local, sustainable, & GE-Free
GE-Free Sonoma is one of the regional ballot choices where now people will have the chance to discuss the risks of GE/GMO seed crops grown in their community. SB 1056 would have terminated Sonoma voter's voices, here's their call for a GE Free future in Sonoma..

"The 'Call': we have launched an ongoing county-wide program to promote local, sustainable, GE-free food and agriculture. We are using a six-point "legislative platform" as a tool for educating and raising awareness and visibility, recruiting volunteers, endorsers and supporters, and building a base of political power for future efforts. The platform calls on our county and state to enact laws for labeling of GE foods, a moratorium on GE-crops, notification of where GE crops are grown, corporate accountability for GE contamination, study of the effects of GE crops and foods, and support for sustainable agriculture.

We are asking farmers, consumers, doctors, churches, schools, businesses, community groups, and others to sign the call - and become part of a network of support. Rather than wait on another ballot measure, we are making our community GE-Free right now - one family, one farm, one restaurant or school at a time!

We need your help reaching out to the many people who still don't know about the risks of GE crops. Sign the pledge, and ask your friends and community to sign as well. Call to volunteer. Together we can keep Sonoma County safe from genetic contamination!

SIGN THE CALL for a GE-free future:

I call on our local, state, and federal representatives to enact the following:

LABELING: the labeling of all seeds, foods and products containing GE ingredients;
MORATORIUM: a moratorium on the release of genetically engineered plant and animals, including crops containing pharmaceutical drugs;
NOTIFICATION: a right to know the nature and location of both commercial plantings and experimental field trials of GE crops, so that we can be aware of specific contamination risks to our farms, gardens, and property;
ACCOUNTABILITY: biotechnology companies to be held responsible for damages that result from the release of their GE crops;
STUDY: independent testing of the long-term environmental, health and safety risks and potential economic impacts from GE crops and other GE products;
SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE: Increased funding and other support for farmers to transition to ecologically sustainable agricultural practices.

To print out and sign the call, click here.
To help staff a GE-Free table at a Farmers Market or event, click here.
To host a house party and film showing for your friends, click here.
To schedule a speaker or film showing for your school, church, community group or organization, click here."

visit @;
We are 100% volunteer and depend on your participation to sustain our efforts!


$60.00 donated
in the past month

Get Involved

If you'd like to help with maintaining or developing the website, contact us.


Publish your stories and upcoming events on Indybay.

IMC Network