Nature 428, 107 (11 March 2004); doi:10.1038/428107b

Californian county bans transgenic crops

[SAN DIEGO] A rural county in northern California voted last week to 
become the first county in the United States to ban the planting of 
genetically modified crops.

Voters in Mendocino County, 130 kilometres north of San Francisco, 
approved the ballot initiative on 2 March by 56% to 44%, despite a 
US$700,000 campaign against the ban by supporters of the technology.

Similar ballot initiatives are planned in nearby Humboldt and Sonoma, 
and activists in half a dozen other counties in California are 
considering similar actions.

A state-wide ballot initiative is also being pursued in North Dakota 
against the planting of genetically modified wheat. The initiative is 
being led by a group of wheat farmers who say the crop could contaminate 
other strains and sabotage their export markets in countries such as Japan.

The grass-roots drive in Mendocino County was led by Els Cooperrider, a 
retired cancer researcher, and her husband Allen, a former zoologist, 
who run an organic brewery there. No transgenic plants are currently 
grown in the county, where grapes for wine are the main crop.

Peter Bradford, a cattleman and president of the Mendocino County Farm 
Bureau, says the vote was in part driven by "a fear of science and big 
corporations". Grape growers will probably use the ban as a marketing 
tool, he adds.

Agricultural corporations are considering a legal challenge to the 
county ban, or pursuit of state wide legislation to overturn it.

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