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GMO Crops Could Be Banned in L.A.

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Mon, Oct 21, 2013 at 9:05 AM

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We're going to attract the ire of pretty much all of you crunchy liberals out there, but we'll say it anyway:

This campaign against GMO foods has gone too far. Sure, we don't want bizarre, unhealthy frankensnacks any more than you do. But consider the bigger picture: Genetically modified foods help feed the world, and a vast majority of the planet doesn't live near the Santa Monica Farmers Market or Whole Foods, nor could it afford to shop at them if they did.

That's not stopping the L.A. City Council from jumping on the bandwagon, of course:

L.A. City Councilman Paul Koretz has submitted an ordinance that would ban the "growing or selling of genetically modified seeds or plants within the city," according to a summary from his office.

Koretz says, "We don't want GMOs growing in Los Angeles ... "

This is one of those ordinances about nothing, the Seinfeld of laws. Because, face it, how many people do you know who are growing or selling GMO seeds or plants within city boundaries?

This isn't exactly farm country.

David King, founder and chairman of the Seed Library of Los Angeles, pushed for the law and admits it's largely for show:

"It is more symbolic," he told us. "We're the second largest city in the United States. If Monsanto and other biotech people have their way, they're going to want to sell genetically modified seeds to the home gardener."

Joanne Poyourow, director of the nonprofit group Environmental Change-Makers, states:

This ordinance will protect our school gardens, our home gardens and our community gardens. It will create 502 square miles where we can safely grow precious heirloom vegetables and save our own seeds. Heirloom and open-pollinated seeds are the foundation of a clean, healthy, reliable food supply.

Koretz's office says that 52 percent of L.A. County voted in favor of last November's statewide mandatory labeling ballot initiative for GMO products, which failed to pass.

Many vegetables, such as corn, have been highly modified over the years through genetic engineering and selective breeding. So finding purebred forms might be difficult. About 90 percent of corn in the United States is believed to be genetically modified.

Mother Jones:

Since several common ingredients like corn starch and soy protein are predominantly derived from genetically modified crops, it's pretty hard to avoid GMO foods altogether. In fact, GMOs are present in 60 to 70 percent of foods on U.S. supermarket shelves ...

click to enlarge JEFF BROWN / FLICKR

But in terms of buying seeds for home gardens, few you'll find on the market are apparently of the GMO variety.

In any case, this law would be nearly impossible to enforce: So the Mexican grandmother down the block is growing GMO corn in her backyard, and LAPD is going to pounce? (The draft ordinance we saw doesn't talk enforcement -- it simply directs the City Attorney's Office to figure it out).

In many respects, GMO foods feed us, allowing insect- and weather-resistant crops that can be grown year-round and that can even be targeted toward specific nutritional needs.

That's a notion, however, that anti-GMO activists dispute, saying natural crop diversity is the only solution to satiating a burgeoning global population.

"I reject that whole thing," King of the Seed Library says. "The people that feed the world are small farmers. You do battle with nature, you lose. In the long run you're going to find that genetically modified plants are going to be a failure."

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow LA Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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