Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 January 2010 16:21 )
Organic Farm at the Dalidio Ranch?
by Rosemary Wilvert
At the January 28 public forum on the fate of the Dalidio Ranch, 22 citizens spoke for an alternative to the owner’s planned shopping center, most advocating a large organic farm, and others adding outdoor restaurants, a flower garden, a large park with space for music and dance, a science discovery center for kids, a large regional branch library, connections with future bike paths, some small retail businesses. A “rising tide of awareness,” one speaker called it.
Five citizens spoke for the shopping center, one saying Ernie Dalidio should have his way “so we don’t have to travel outside the area for discounted prices,” and another, that “we need the tax advantages for the sake of city services.” One, from Los Angeles, spoke for an amusement park with large cartoon mascots at the entrance, arcades, and slot cars, to give kids something to do “because kids are our future.”
One person advocated just one box, a Target, in the area adjoining the existing shopping center. Maybe that kind of compromise would encourage this longtime farmer, Dalidio, to leave the rest of his class-one soil uncovered, to honor his roots. If we leave the amusement parks (and box stores) to Orange County, with 131 acres here, there’s room for all the other alternatives, enhancing each other, a community-enhancing space for residents and tourists alike.
A Tribune article recently noted that to market our county in the competition for tourism dollars, our Visitors and Conference Bureau is proposing a tax on occupancy of lodgings in order to raise almost $2 million. Why not make SLO a more enticing – instead of more expensive – destination? If we preserve the culture and uniqueness of San Luis Obispo, the tourists will (continue to) come, all the more if we don’t undermine the retailers in another unique asset, our downtown.
A quarter-century down the road when we’re no longer trucking produce thousands of miles, we’ll look on our 131-acre piece of prime agricultural land as incalculably more valuable than several more box stores. Our grandchildren will thank us for not asphalting it over. In a similar situation in Goleta, the 12-acre Center for Urban Agriculture at Fairview Gardens feeds 500 families with organic produce and provides farm visits for schools and tourists. Saved from developers by Michael Ableman and a coalition of donors, including the Land Conservancy, the land is in a permanent trust. (See its story on the 33-minute documentary film “Beyond Organic,” narrated by Meryl Streep, available at the HopeDance Film Library / Store. See ad in the print issue. Also, mark your calendars: Cal Poly is bringing Farmer Ableman to speak on June 1.)
Voters in San Luis Obispo rejected Dalidio’s Marketplace project in April, 2005. He then took it to the county for approval, hoping to annex the developed land later to the city. Speakers at the January forum commented that development should be by the city, not the county, because it will impact the city, and that property owners should respect the community’s values.
In December, Supervisor Jerry Lenthall assembled a 15-person citizens’ advisory committee to meet six times, saying he wanted to get the views of this cross-section of the community to the full board. Following pressure from county residents and the media, its closed sessions were later opened to the public. Its January forum of public presentations, however, was not attended by most of the supervisors or committee members. (It was videotaped.)
The Tribune’s opinion page has been alive with ideas for green alternatives, one letter to the editor recently adding community gardens to the mix. One way or another, let your vision for a gateway to SLO – this last prime land surrounded by development – be known to the Board of Supervisors and to all of us fortunate enough to live in our incomparable county. I hope someday to take my granddaughter for inspiration and recreation to a green place named Dalidio.
Rosemary Wilvert and her husband farm their city lot in SLO with 26 fruit and nut trees, veggies, and three hens. Contact her at
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 January 2010 16:26 )
Update About the GE-FREE Measure (SLO County)
by Mike Zelina & Teresa Campbell
The more people learn about genetic engineering the less they trust it. This simple but profoundly accurate statement by Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, was proven true during the election in November with Measure Q in SLO County. Almost 50,000 residents voted to prohibit the growing of genetically engineered crops, an unknown issue, and in spite of nearly $300,000 worth of No on Q deceptive campaign advertising.
Even though Measure Q was able to obtain incredible grass roots support, it did not pass. Now San Luis Obispo County is open to the genetic pollution that will occur as a byproduct of the realization of the financial hopes and dreams of large chemical companies. Gloating and arrogant, the biotech bullies predict a rosy future for GE crops in California in the near future.
"The rejections of proposed bans on genetically modified crops in Butte and San Luis Obispo were major victories not only in those counties, but for agriculture statewide. Before the Nov. 2, anti-biotech groups were claiming major victories in Mendocino and Trinity counties en route to an avowed goal of banning biotech crops in California statewide. This despite the fact that there were more than 600,000 acres of transgenic crops grown in the state in 2004. That number is expected to grow significantly in the next few years," stated Harry Cline in the Western Farm Press.
Local SLO citizens, like citizens all over the world, are working to keep GE crops out of their homelands but it’s a tough fight with a lot of money at stake for the proponents of this agriculture. Again, the more people know about GE, the less they trust it, so one job is to keep information flowing to the public. Even this is not so simple because, with the exception of a few rare publications like HopeDance, media isn’t likely to let us know some of the latest GE news from around the country and world.
These recent (post election) news items are just a sampling of how GE crops are being pushed and resisted around the world.
12/10 Oregon attempts moratorium on "biopharming"
Oregon’s Physicians for Social Responsibility wants a four-year moratorium on "biopharming" applications. Biopharming represents the latest twist on genetic modification in agriculture: splicing pharmaceuticals into the genes of staple crops. A bill seeking the moratorium would be introduced after the Legislature convenes in January.
12/9 The Corporate Attack on Organic Agriculture
What could be wrong with farming in concert with nature - eliminating toxic agrichemicals and the use of genetically engineered crops? Well, plenty if you are a CEO at Monsanto, Dupont, or any number of other ‘life-sciences’ companies that have invested in an escalating smear campaign aimed at discrediting organic farming. Promulgated by such well-funded surrogates as the right-wing Hudson Institute, Competitive Enterprise Institute, and the American Chemical Society, these multinational corporations can’t stand that consumers are voting with their pocketbooks because of their discomfort with conventional farming practices and have turned organic food marketing from a small, eclectic niche into the fastest growing segment of the food industry, with over $12 billion in sales this year.
12/7 Altered crops not taking root in Japan
Farmer’s hopes to grow Japan’s first crop of GM soybeans are dashed. Nation still rejecting genetically modified produce
12/7 Biotech crop safety tests flawed, new scientific paper shows
A peer-reviewed scientific paper published today in Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews debunks the myth that biotech or genetically modified (GM) crops are thoroughly tested, regulated and proven safe. The paper, "Safety Testing and Regulation of Genetically Engineered Foods" , reveals fundamental flaws in how biotech companies test and the U.S. government regulates GM crops.
One claim is that such research is unnecessary. It is claimed that US citizens have eaten GM crops for years without any effect. Yet during this period many health problems have increased in the USA (including soya and maize allergies) and these have cost the US medical service dearly. There has been no attempt to find out whether these correlate in any way with GM food consumption. There has been no post-release monitoring of the population. No coroner or doctor is in a position to record any symptoms, even death, as resulting from GM foods because no-one knows what symptoms there could be. Whether or not the products are safe they are being rejected by consumers and food manufacturers. Surely the economic impact of this alone indicates the necessity of such research.
12/3 Iraq’s new patent law: A declaration of war against farmers
For generations, small farmers in Iraq operated in an essentially unregulated, informal seed supply system. Farm-saved seed and the free innovation with and exchange of planting materials among farming communities has long been the basis of agricultural practice. This has been made illegal under a new law put in place by former Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator L. Paul Bremer III.
11/30 Syngenta halts genetic engineering projects in Europe
Syngenta, the world’s biggest agro-chemicals group based in Basel, has halted all European field trials of genetically modified plants and seed material varieties. The company will transfer all its biotechnology research activities to the USA.
11/21 Bayer CropScience finally gives up on planting in Britain
Bayer CropScience has withdrawn the only two remaining applications for government permission for the seeds - a winter and a spring oilseed rape, both modified to tolerate one of the firm’s herbicides. Environmentalists cite it as one more indication that they are never likely to be grown here.
California is taking the lead in preventing the spread of genetic engineering in agriculture in the United States. It is a struggle against government, corporate and university interests that have an economic incentive in the success of genetic engineering.
To help in this struggle, SLO GE Free will continue to educate consumers, farmers, and our elected officials about the concerns of GE with the goal of preventing the introduction of new crops and the removal of any existing crops.
We are about to enter an era of aggressiveness by chemical corporations to, as Harry stated, "increase transgenic crop acreage in California radically in the next few years." The GE Free movement must be even more vigilant to prevent this from happening.
Teresa Campbell and Mike Zelina were/are the main organizers for Yes on Measure Q. It was defeated in the November election despite almost 50,000 voters voting in favor of the Measure. Hopefully the Santa Barbara GE-Free campaign can succeed when it comes before the voters.
Visit http://www.slogefree.org for updates on the latest in local actions and GE news from around the world.
Last Updated ( Wednesday, 27 January 2010 16:28 )
"Pharming" in SLO County
by Mike Zelina and Teresa Campbell
In late March, San Luis Obispo County was shocked into action after learning that Ventria’s genetically engineered pharmaceutical rice was at our door and scheduled to be planted this spring. ECOSLO, along with SLO GE Free, posted an alert to several e-mail lists urging members immediately to contact the County Board of Supervisors and the California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary to ask for a delay in approval of the rice both here and in nine other counties.
We fortunately got that delay, but that is all it is. We now have some time to learn everything we can about genetic engineering so we can decide whether or not we want it in our county, in our state and on our planet. Genetic Engineering Defined Genetic Engineering (GE) is the insertion of genetic material or DNA into the chromosomes of a living organism using a bacteria or a virus. The artificially inserted DNA may be extracted from an entirely different species of plant, animal, or microbe. Ventria’s pharmaceutical rice is an example of a plant that has been genetically engineered with human genes that produce two proteins found in human breast milk and tears.
Humans have been changing plant genetics for hundreds of years, but GE is different. The results of the methods used in transgenic manipulation could never be achieved through traditional cross-pollination or hybridization. Problems with GE Since their introduction in the mid 1990s, scientists, consumers, farmers, insurers, economists, and environmental groups have all raised questions about genetic engineering. The two most common traits engineered into crops — glyphosate (Roundup) resistance and the Bt pesticide — were supposed to save farmers millions in the reduction of labor and pesticide costs. However, the promises of the biotech industry have in many cases proved to be untrue. Some of the concerns about genetically engineered crops are:
|• GE crops are threatening both conventional and organic farmers as a result of genetic contamination, potentially costing them billions of dollars in lost export markets due to GE import restrictions in Europe, Asia, Africa, and South and Central America.
|• GE crops are leading to increased herbicide use causing the creation of "superweeds," are harming beneficial insects, earthworms and birds, and are causing the creation of "superbugs" by overexposure to otherwise effective Bt toxins.
|• GE foods are increasing the likelihood of new food allergens or novel toxins being introduced into our food supply.
|• The use of food crops to produce pharmaceuticals presents a threat to the human food supply due to the impossibility of preventing contamination. Incidentally, even the GE food producers admit some contamination is inevitable.
The Evolving Science of GE For most of the past 50 years, geneticists believed that all the traits in living organisms could be traced back to about 5% of the genes in a cell’s DNA.
The other 95% of the genes were dismissed as "junk" DNA and were assumed to have no function. As recently reported by Scientific American, research in the past several years has contradicted the idea of "junk" DNA, and the theory is now being described as one of the biggest mistakes in the history of molecular biology. Genetic engineering is clearly an evolving science, and any claims of certainty by GE producers should be viewed with skepticism.
Education is the Key
According to Cornell’s Genetically Engineered Organisms education project, between 60 and 70% of all food in grocery stores contains some GE ingredients. For example, virtually all canola oil is made from genetically engineered seeds.
However, some people are still not aware that they are consuming GE foods or that GE foods have even been approved for human consumption. If more people knew all the facts surrounding GE, more people might be concerned.
When we received our "rice scare," local people made all the difference. With Roundup Ready alfalfa scheduled for planting in 2004, action must be taken now to keep GE out of our county. Once planted, these crops will have irreversible effects.
The County Board of Supervisors can be convinced to adopt either an ordinance or moratorium prohibiting GE crops, or the citizens can bring the issue to a vote with a ballot initiative similar to the one successfully passed by Mendocino County. Perhaps most importantly, we should buy organic products and always demand to know if a food contains genetically engineered ingredients. Voting with your dollar is how we put GE out of business. The health of future generations is in our hands. m
Mike Zelina is an ECOSLO Board Member. He can be reached at
. Teresa Campbell is a local artist working to keep genetically engineered crops out of San Luis Obispo County.
www.calgefree.org, www.ecoslo.org, www.sbgefree.org
Mendocino Bans the Growing of GMOs
In March of 2004, Mendocino County became the first county to pass an ordinance prohibiting the growing of genetically engineered organisms. The "County ordinance prohibiting growing of genetically modified organisms" ballot initiative won with 57% of the vote, even though the opposition spent over $600,000 to defeat the measure.
The ordinance simply stated "The people of Mendocino County wish to protect the county’s agriculture, environment, economy, and private property from genetic pollution by genetically modified organisms." And that "It shall be unlawful for any person, firm, or corporation to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow genetically modified organisms in Mendocino County." Following Mendocino’s lead, several other counties are working on similar ordinances. Butte, Marin, and San Luis Obispo County are just a few. All the local efforts are being coordinated through California GE Free – a coalition of concerned groups including California Certified Organic Farmers, The Center for Food Safety, The Center for Environmental Health, Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, and the Genetic Engineering Action Network.
For more information, visit the state website at: www.calgefree.org or our local website at: www.slogefree.org
If you live in Santa Barbara county, please visit: www.sbgefree.org