Trinity bans biotech farming

Rural county becomes only second in U.S. to take a stand against genetic engineering.

By Mike Lee -- Bee Staff Writer

Published Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2004

Sparsely populated Trinity County on Tuesday became the second county in the nation to ban the growing of genetically engineered crops.

By 3-1 vote, county supervisors quietly approved an ordinance similar to one Mendocino County voters passed in March to set a national precedent.

With a small farming industry and no known biotech crops, Trinity's ban doesn't figure to make a major impact on California agriculture. However, it does show the spread of anti-biotech sentiment and mark another success for an alliance of activists who have chosen California as the place to battle biotech companies.

Veteran Trinity County Supervisor Ralph Modine said he supported the ordinance because the county's budding organic farm sector fears contamination by genetically engineered crops.

Modine said supervisors could repeal the ordinance if residents ever deemed biotech plants necessary. For now, he said, "if we're to err on the side of caution, that would be a wise thing to do."

At least four other counties - Butte, San Luis Obispo, Humboldt and Marin - have biotech-crop bans on the November ballot. Several other counties are considering similar bans.

Modine said Trinity supervisors didn't send the issue to voters because they felt they had strong support and didn't want to spend money on an election.

About the Writer

The Bee's Mike Lee can be reached at (916) 321-1102 or