Los Angeles City Council Chamber. Photo by John Schreiber.
Los Angeles City Council Chamber. Photo by John Schreiber.

The Los Angeles City Council on Tuesday tentatively backed a proposal to ban the cultivation of genetically modified crops in the city.

The council voted 13-1 to move forward with the largely symbolic motion by councilmen Paul Koretz and Mitch O’Farrell to draft an ordinance prohibiting the sale and planting of genetically modified seeds, as well as the sale of genetically modified fruit trees and plants in Los Angeles.

Harbor-area City Councilman Joe Buscaino cast the dissenting vote.

The ordinance would turn Los Angeles into a so-called “GMO-free zone,” at least in terms of the sale and planting of many genetically modified plants.

Genetically engineered organisms that could be banned include patented, lab-created varieties of corn, soy and other plants designed to be resistant to pests or survive weed-killing agents, council aides said.

Koretz contends genetic modification reduces bio-diversity, makes food unsafe to eat and is linked to the collapse of bee populations.

GMO supporters, however, contend that genetically modified crops help feed people.  They deny any health risks associated with GMOs, which are regulated in the European Union, Australia and Japan.

Koretz said more than 90 scientists in Europe came together last year to issue a statement that rejected a consensus on the safety of GMOs.

The statement dismissed the idea that “the debate on the topic is over,” he said, and suggests that “the pesticide companies have been conducting an unscientific scientific experiment on us since the early ’90s, without our consent.”

Instead of experimenting on plant life and the public, “we want to conduct our own experiment in L.A., and make all 503 square miles of Los Angeles a GMO-free growing zone,” Koretz said.

“Let’s see what that does for soil health. Let’s see what that does for pollinator health,” he said. “Even more exciting, let’s see what that does for economic development.”

The policy would protect “urban farmers and our cottage food movement” who are hurt by “seed drift” that contaminates non-GMO crops, so that Los Angeles’ proposed GMO-free zone could potentially create a “lucrative ‘grown in L.A.’ brand.”

He said that “mono-cropping like they do for GMO crops is dangerous for food supply,” and GMO-free policies are needed to “to protect seed diversity so. that if one strain of plants fails another will sustain us.”

According to Koretz’s motion, Arcata, a city in Humboldt County, has enacted a ban on the sale, distribution and growth of GMO seeds and plants.

City News Service

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