US: GMO cultivation banned in Washington State County
In San Juan Country, Washington State, the population 16,000 voted in favour of banning the “propagation, cultivation or growing of genetically modified organisms” in the county. A 1.5 to 1 majority won the initiative 2012-4.
Opponents said that approving the initiative would make the residents of San Juan County appear like “elitists, ignorant to the benefits of technological advances, and uncaring about the planet and its inhabitants”. Larry Salquest who was the principal spokesperson for the opponents commented that the ban on growing GMO was “unnecessary, unenforceable and unwise.”
According to the Washington State Department of Agriculture, the county has 291 farms producing US$4 million (€3 million) in crops annually.
Violation of the ban
The first violation is a Class 1 civil infraction carrying a US$250 (€192.038) penalty plus statutory assessments. The second violation is a criminal misdemeanour punishable by a fine of up to US$1,000 (€768.152) , 90 days in jail, or both. A third or subsequent violation is a gross misdemeanour punishable by a fine of up to US$5,000 (€3,840.76) , 365 days in jail, or both.
According to the initiative, criminal charges will be brought only when civil remedies have failed to ensure compliance. The initiative does allow for the growth of hybrid organisms and GMOs to be grown by health-care providers and researchers in secure environments. It will not affect GMO products sold in local grocery stores.