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Los Angeles may become largest GMO-free area in the US

Published time: October 24, 2013 00:05
Edited time: October 26, 2013 19:12
AFP Photo / Eitan Abramovich

AFP Photo / Eitan Abramovich

Los Angeles is considering a ban on the cultivation, sale and distribution of genetically modified organisms, which would make the city the largest GMO-free zone in the US.

Los Angeles City Councilmen Paul Koretz and Mitch O’Farrell introduced Friday a motion to curb growth and proliferation of GMO seeds and plants within the city.

The councilmen said the proposal aims to protect local gardens and city-grown food from future contamination from GMO seeds. The motion would not impact the sale of food containing GMO ingredients, however.

GMO seeds are mostly used only by large-scale farming operations, of which none exists in Los Angeles city.

"The pending ordinance would be symbolic more than anything else, but we do feel it's an important step to have the second-largest city in the nation declare itself as against genetically modified seeds," said head of Learning Garden and Seed Library of LA David King, who assisted in creating the motion.

King told The Huffington Post that if GMO seeds begin to be marketed to smaller farmers, the ban would be in place to protect home-grown food.

O’Farrell said suspicions that powerful new pesticides - incorporated into plant DNA via genetic engineering - have devastated worldwide honeybee populations by 40 to 50 percent in 2012 is the “canary in the coal mine” for GMOs. California’s almond crop, which supplies 80 percent of US almonds, has fallen on tough times given almonds rely so much on bees.

“A growing number of problems are being traced to GMOs," Koretz said in a statement. He cited examples like "the evolution of 'superbug' insects which are growing immune to the pesticides engineered within GMO crops" and "'seed drift' (for example the recent finding of GMO-pollinated wheat growing in an Oregon farmer’s field)."

Some smaller US localities have banned the cultivation of GMOs, but LA would be by far the biggest US city to do so.

Genetic engineering on plants, for example, occurs when a gene from another plant species, bacterium or virus is inserted into the organism's DNA.

An international group of over 90 scientists, academics and physicians released a statement early this week saying there is no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs for humans, as proponents like Monsanto attest, and that any GMO cultivation should take internationally-approved precautions.

“The claim that it does exist is misleading and misrepresents the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of opinion among scientists on this issue,” the statement said.

“Moreover, the claim encourages a climate of complacency that could lead to a lack of regulatory and scientific rigour and appropriate caution, potentially endangering the health of humans, animals, and the environment.”

A public effort to require all GMO foods and seeds to be labeled as such throughout the entire state of California failed a year ago. Opponents of Proposition 37 - like Monsanto and Kraft - helped donate around $46 million to the cause against labeling. Supporters of labeling raised just over $9 million in that defeat.

Voters in Washington State will consider a labeling requirement next month. Opponents of Initiative 522 - led by questionable fundraising tactics by industry trade group Grocery Manufacturers Association - have pumped $17 million into the effort to defeat labeling. Supporters have raised over $5 million.

A lawsuit filed by the state against the GMA claimed that the group violated campaign disclosure laws, and forced it to reveal donors to its “Defense of Brands Strategic Account.”

Out of the 34 companies who doled out over $7.2 million into the initiative the top three were PepsiCo, which contributed $1.6 million, and Nestle USA, Inc. and The Coca-Cola Co., which spent over $1 million each.

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