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Sonoma County, Calif. has become part of the largest GMO-free zone in the country - thanks to voter turnout


(NaturalNews) While the victory of Donald Trump grabbed the majority of the election-related headlines this year, something monumental happened in Sonoma County, California, where residents voted in favor of banning the cultivation of genetically modified crops.

Measure M, which was originally known as the Sonoma County Transgenic Contamination Ordinance, passed by a margin of 55.9 percent to 44.1 percent in Sonoma County. It will lead to the formation of the biggest GMO-free zone in the U.S. as a number of nearby counties – including Marin, Trinity, Santa Cruz, Mendocino, and Humboldt – have also banned GMO crop cultivation in the past. This means there is now a GMO-free growing space encompassing 13,734 square miles in California.

The initiative outlaws the growing and usage of GMO crops and seeds in all areas of the county that are unincorporated. This includes the bulk of the county's dairies, farms and vineyards. There will be a grace period before the ban is officially instituted. Farmers who are currently growing GMO crops can continue to cultivate them until the plants mature, while those who have already bought GM seeds must use them in the next growing season. If they fail to do that, they'll have to either remove them from county or destroy them.

Biotech industry tried to stop the measure's passage

Predictably, the biotech industry fought tooth and nail trying to stop the measure from passing. Supporters of the ban, which include heirloom seed businesses, natural food co-ops, and organic dairy farms, raised more than half a million dollars to help push the measure through in what ended up becoming one of Sonoma County's costliest ballot initiatives of all time. The results indicate a major shift in public sentiment after a similar measure was voted down ten years ago.

The Center for Food Safety's West Coast Director, Rebecca Spector, said: "Farmers deserve the right to grow food that is not contaminated by genetic engineering, just as the public deserves the right to purchase organic or GMO-free foods that are free from GMO contamination."

Impressive voter turnout shows going GMO-free is the will of the people

The voter turnout in Sonoma County for the general election could reach as high as 86 percent once all the provisional and mail-in ballots are counted. Although it's not quite the 93 percent noted there in 2008, it sill beats the state's average turnout for this election, which currently stands at around 60 percent. Some votes are still being counted, so no official final numbers are available yet. However, the turnout in Sonoma is far greater than the national voter turnout is in this year's general election of around 58 percent.

The fact that so many voters actually cast their ballots gives weight to the passage of the measure as it represents the opinion of such a large percentage of eligible voters. There is no doubt that organic gardening and organic food are growing in popularity as people refuse to allow themselves to be poisoned by GMOs. The Center for Food Safety is hailing the move as an example of the democratic process at work, with concerned people succeeding in enacting changes that will benefit their community as well as the environment.

Similar local efforts in other places have not been as successful. GMO bans were passed in a few counties in Hawaii but then overturned by federal judges, while a ban in Josephine County, Oregon, was eventually declared invalid due to a conflict with state law. However, a ban in Jackson County, Oregon, is still in effect after Jackson was given an exemption from the state law.

Many movements begin locally, and as more and more counties pass these measures, it's only a matter of time before such initiatives start becoming law at the state and federal level.

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