Banning Genetically Engineered Food Ordinance

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Type: Ballot Initiative

Source File:

Sample Text:

(Note: use of this initiative, intended for the Nov. 2001 ballot in Denver, in other locations will require modifications. See your local election rules on Initiative and the "Getting Started" points

The ballot title for the Initiated Ordinance shall be as follows:

"Shall the voters for the City and County of Denver adopt an Initiated Ordinance making it unlawful for any person to sell or distribute on school premises, including through vending machines, any genetically engineered food, until such food has been confirmed, through a successful food safety testing assessment, safe for consumption by humans under eighteen (18) years of age, and, in connection therewith, requiring the Denver City Council to enact measures to fund, implement, and enforce this ordinance, and providing an affirmative defense for persons who do not knowingly violate such ordinance if they were not notified, did not know, and made a reasonable investigation to determine, whether or not such food had been confirmed safe?"

Be it enacted by the People of the City and County of Denver

The Code of the City and County of Denver is amended by the addition of a new division to read:

DIVISION ___. sale or distribution OF Genetically Engineered Food on school premises

Sec. 24-___. Definitions. As used in this division.

1. Agricultural inputs means all substances or materials used in the production or handling of agricultural products.

2. Agricultural product means any agricultural commodity or product, whether raw or processed, including any commodity or product derived from livestock, that is marketed in the City and County of Denver for human or livestock consumption.

3. Food means any raw, cooked or processed edible substance, ice, beverage, chewing gum or food additive, component or ingredient used or intended for use or for sale in whole or in part for consumption by humans or other animals.

4. Food additive means any substance, the intended use of which results or may be reasonably expected to result, directly or indirectly, in its becoming a component or otherwise affecting the characteristics of any food including any substance intended for use in producing, manufacturing, packing, processing, preparing, treating, packaging, transporting, or holding food.

5. Food safety testing assessment means a battery of tests that can adequately screen for short term and long term adverse health effects. Such tests may not rely on the concept of "substantial equivalence" that presumes the food is substantially equivalent to its conventional counterpart and that there is no risk of unpredictable harmful side effects. Such tests shall include:

a. High stringency,in vivo feeding tests employing the whole transgenic (genetically engineered) food, using small animals to detect acute toxicity, then subsequently using paid human volunteers, to detect the presence of novel allergens, chronic toxicity and less acute toxicity, and anti-nutrient actions through long term consumption;
b. Controlled and monitored commercial release of recombinant foods into the market place to detect adverse effects in human health that occur at low frequency in the population or that emerge only after long-term exposure (minimum three years);
c. Molecular biological analyses to detect and characterize genetic alterations induced through recombinant DNA modifications that may reduce food safety or quality;
d. In vitro, routine nutritional analysis and testing for common, known allergens and toxins.

6. Genetically engineered food means:

1. All foods derived in whole or in part from a genetically modified microorganism, plant, livestock, or other organism, if that genetically modified material accounts for at least one tenth of one percent or more of the weight of any ingredient or component of the product, but not otherwise;
2. All food products prepared or processed using genetically modified enzymes or other genetically modified processing agents, whether or not those enzymes or agents are present in the final product;
3. All foods derived from agricultural products cultivated using genetically modified agricultural inputs, whether or not those inputs are present in the final product; and
4. All dairy and meat products derived from livestock that have been fed genetically modified material or have been injected or treated with genetically modified hormones or drugs.

7. Genetically engineered material means material derived from any part of a genetically modified organism whether or not such organism is present in the final product.

8. Genetically modified organism means:

1. an organism that has been modified at the molecular or cellular level by one or more methods that are not possible under natural conditions or processes. Such methods include, without limitation, cell fusion, micro-encapsulation, macro-encapsulation, and the use of recombinant DNA technology (including gene deletion, gene doubling, introducing a foreign gene, and changing the positions of genes, when achieved by recombinant DNA technology). "Genetically modified organism" does not include any plant, animal, bacteria, or other microorganism created by traditional breeding, conjugation, artificial insemination, embryo transfer, non-directed muta-genesis, fermentation, hybridization, in-vitro fertilization, tissue culture or artificial interbreeding; or
2. an organism made through sexual or asexual reproduction, or both, involving an organism described in sub-clause (a).

9. Ingredient means any substance used in the preparation of an agricultural product that is still present in the final commercial product as consumed.

10. Person means a natural person, partnership, association, company, corporation, or other legal entity or a manager, agent, servant, officer or employee of any of them.

11. Safe means generally recognized among experts, qualified by scientific training and experience to evaluate food safety, as having been adequately shown through a food safety testing assessment to be secure from liability to harm, injure, or produce deleterious short term or long term risk to human health under the conditions of the food's intended use.

12. School premises means the buildings, grounds, or facilities, or any portion thereof, meeting the requirements of the compulsory education laws of the state.

Sec. 24-___. Declaration of findings and intent.
The People of the City and County of Denver hereby declare that internal files of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reveal it has been misleading the public about the hazards of genetically engineered (GE) foods for almost a decade.

Numerous memoranda from FDA scientists to the agency’s administrators repeatedly cautioned: (1) that producing new varieties of foods through genetic engineering is substantially different than doing so through conventional breeding practices; (2) that every GE food entails different risks than its conventional counterpart; (3) that these risks include the potential production of unintended and essentially unpredictable new toxins, carcinogens, and other harmful substances; and (4) that as a consequence, no GE food can reasonably be considered safe unless it has successfully undergone rigorous toxicological feeding tests employing the whole food.

However, FDA administrators, who were operating under presidential directives to promote the biotechnology industry, disregarded their experts’ input and instituted a policy that (1) presumes GE foods are as safe as conventional foods and (2) allows them to be marketed without any testing. Further, the administrators covered up the statements from their scientists and went on to declare they were "…not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods [GE foods] differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way."

The sole basis on which GE foods have come to market is the FDA’s claim that they are recognized as safe by an overwhelming consensus of scientific experts. Yet, it is clear that such consensus did not even exist among the FDA experts when the agency issued its formal policy statement in May of 1992. Further, the FDA biotechnology coordinator acknowledged in a letter to a Canadian health official on Oct. 23, 1991 that there was not a consensus within the scientific community about safety. Moreover, it is obvious that there is presently even greater disagreement among scientists. For example, hundreds of scientists (including professors of biology from Harvard University and M.I.T.) have signed an open letter to the world’s governments warning of the health hazards of GE foods and calling for a moratorium on their sale. Moreover, nine experts have even joined a lawsuit against the FDA demanding that it: (1) acknowledge the hazards of GE foods and (2) obey the mandates of the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, which requires that products like GE foods be confirmed safe through testing before they are marketed.

Consequently, it is unreasonable for consumers to be exposed to GE foods, especially since (1) the FDA does not require they be labeled, making it extremely difficult for people with concerns to avoid them. It is especially problematic that children are being exposed to GE foods, since they are in many ways at greater risk than adults are from continued ingestion of harmful substances in their food. It is therefore legitimate for parents to be concerned about their children consuming genetically engineered foods.

To protect the health of children, the sale or distribution of every genetically engineered food must be prohibited on school premises until such food has been confirmed safe, for consumption by humans under eighteen years of age, after undergoing the kind of rigorous safety testing called for by the FDA scientists and intended by the U.S. Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.

Sec. 24-___. Sale or distribution of genetically engineered food on school premises.
It shall be unlawful for any person to sell or distribute on school premises, including through vending machines, any genetically engineered food, until such food has been confirmed, through a successful food safety testing assessment, safe for consumption by humans under eighteen (18) years of age.

Sec. 24-___. Enforcement. By the effective date, as set forth below, the Denver City Council shall prescribe and enact measures to fund, implement and enforce this new division.

Sec. 24-___. Affirmative defense. No person shall be liable for violating the provisions of this division if:

1. such person shall sustain the burden of proof that such person did not receive a notice from any other person, nor had actual knowledge, about whether or not the food sold or distributed had been confirmed, through a successful food safety testing assessment, safe for consumption by humans under eighteen (18) years of age; and

2. such person made a reasonable investigation to determine whether or not such food had been confirmed safe.

Sec. 24-___. Effective date. This new division shall become effective ninety (90) days after the certification of the vote.

Sec. 24-___. Severability. Should any one (1) or more provisions of this division be determined to be illegal or unenforceable, all other provisions nevertheless shall remain effective.