Biotech food ban faces March vote

By Mike Lee -- Bee Staff Writer

Published Thursday, December 4, 2003

Mendocino residents will have a chance on March 4 to make their county the first in the nation to ban the growing of genetically engineered crops.

County supervisors voted 5-0 Tuesday to put the initiative on the ballot despite opposition from the California Plant Health Association, a farm chemical trade group, which said the initiative pre-empted federal authority. The county counsel disagreed.

The initiative would not ban the use of genetically engineered food ingredients or require them to be labeled.

The Mendocino Organic Network proposed the ban as a way to protect the purity of the county's large and growing organic wine-grape industry from genetic contamination.

Members gathered more than 4,000 signatures to earn a ballot spot, but it wasn't clear until this week whether the county would move fast enough to get the measure on the March ballot.