I am confident that many civic-minded citizens are aware that election season is now building toward November 8, the last day to participate. Labor Day is the traditional day that campaigns begin to increase their activity to gain support for a candidate or a cause. California is one of 26 states, 18 of which lie west of the Mississippi River, that also allow for initiative rights for their citizens. There will be ample opportunities for local voters to not only weigh in on who they want to serve as their elected representatives locally, statewide and nationally, but also to directly impact public policy through citizen initiatives that have qualified to be placed on the ballot.
Sonoma County voters will be faced with their fair share of decisions outside of electing representatives as there are 18 qualified citizen initiatives on the ballot at the state level, five at the county level and an additional 18 others depending upon what city or school district where one resides in Sonoma County.
Of the five countywide ballot measures, one initiative has been reincarnated from an effort first put forward just over 10 years ago. It is also ironic that the ballot measure carries the same label as it carried the first time. Measure M was then and is now an effort by some to limit the use of agricultural biotechnology and its known and yet to be developed benefits only in the unincorporated areas of Sonoma County. The measure was defeated in 2006 by a 56 percent to 44 percent vote. This version of Measure M should also be rejected by voters on November 8th.
The arguments have not changed. This issue continues to be a complex global debate and will not be resolved solely in Sonoma County. The experience with genetically engineered crops has seen another decade of production and testing elapse that has shown absolutely no evidence these foods are less safe than foods produced without biotechnology enhancement.
There are several sources of extensive research that support this assertion, most recently by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine in a report, http://nas-sites.org/ge-crops/, titled Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects and closely followed by a letter signed by over 100 Nobel laureates available to read at website www.supportprecisionagriculture.org/nobel-laureate-gmo-letter_rjr.html.
The purpose of this county initiative appears to be more about restricting farmer choice based upon societal and economic claims. The ability for consumers to know and choose the source of their food by how it is produced is beginning to be addressed by Congress passing and the President signing into law S.764, a bill that creates a national standard for labeling food made with genetically modified organisms. The appropriate questions are: Is the evidence about the asserted dangers of genetically modified organisms so clear and convincing as to justify a ban that only places the burden on some farmers, but asks nothing of anyone else? Is this measure written in a way that assures there will not be any unintended consequences? The answer to both questions rests with the voters.
Vote NO on Measure M.