Lake County, CA Use of Genetically Modified Crops or Plants

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Lake County, CA, US

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Type: Draft Ordinance

Status: Released on 3/3/08

Source File:


7.31.010 Findings.
It is the intent of the Lake County Board of Supervisors to uphold the public health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Lake County by supporting an agricultural economy in Lake County that is free of genetically modified crops.

Upon proper local regulation, the geography of Lake County provides a unique opportunity to create an agricultural economy that can be certified as free of genetically modified crops. Lake County farmers will have a competitive advantage in regional, national and international markets if they can certify that their crops have been grown in an area that is free of genetic contamination. Research shows that crops that are certified to be free of genetic modification bring premium prices in the regional and global marketplace.

Currently there is insufficient regulatory monitoring and oversight of genetically modified crops by the federal and state governments to ensure public health, environmental safety, and freedom from genetic contamination in agriculture. Further, the planting of genetically modified crops is not required to be publicly disclosed to any federal, state or county agency.

Currently, adequate safeguards do not exist to prevent contamination of existing crops, plants, insects, domesticated animals, wildlife and wild lands by genetically modified crops as a result of forces of nature or human causes. The resulting impacts on ecosystems are unknown.

The California Constitution, Article XI, section 7, states: "A county or city may make and enforce within its limits all police, sanitary, and other ordinances and regulations not in conflict with general laws".

7.31.020 Definitions.
For the purposes of this chapter, unless the context otherwise indicates, certain words and phrases used in this chapter are defined as follows:

  • A "Genetically engineered" plant is a plant or any plant part material, including, but not limited to, seeds and pollen, in which genetic material has been changed through "modern biotechnology" in a way that does not occur naturally by multiplication or recombination.
  • "Modern biotechnology" is the application of in vitro nucleic acid techniques, fusion of cells, including protoplast fusion, or hybridization techniques beyond the taxonomic family that overcome natural physiological, reproductive, or recombination barriers and that are not techniques used in traditional breeding and selection.
  • "Person" means any individual, firm, partnership, trust, corporation, company, estate, public or private institution, association, organization or group, and any representative, officer, employee or agent of any of the foregoing.
  • "Release" means to discharge, emit or liberate any genetically modified crop, or the product of a genetically modified crop into the open environment.

7.31.030 Prohibition.
It is unlawful for any person to propagate, cultivate, raise, or grow any genetically modified crop or plant. Any act in violation of this prohibition is declared to constitute a public nuisance.

7.31.040 Exemptions.
The prohibition contained in this chapter shall not apply to the propagation of genetically engineered pharmaceuticals and industrial compounds done in state or federally licensed medical research institutions, medical laboratories, or medical manufacturing facilities engaged in a licensed medical production, or to medical research involving genetically modified crops provided such activities are conducted under secure, enclosed indoor laboratory conditions, with utmost precaution to prevent release of genetically modified crops into the outside environment.

7.31.050 Reevaluation by board of supervisors.
In its discretion, the board of supervisors may consider the on-going need for the prohibition of genetically modified crops contained in this ordinance. If the Board of Supervisors determines that a prohibition is no longer necessary, it shall amend this chapter in a manner consistent with that determination. When re-considering the prohibition in this ordinance, the Board of Supervisors shall, at a minimum, take into account each of the following factors:

  • Whether allowing genetically modified crops or plants to be grown in Lake County would negatively affect the economic advantage of keeping Lake County's agriculture free of genetically modified crops and plants.
  • Whether the state of California and/or the federal government has implemented effective regulation of genetically modified crops and plants, including independent testing of their ecological impact.
  • Whether field trials of genetically modified crops are required by state or federal law to be contained to prevent contamination of organic and non-genetically modified crops and weedy relatives.
  • Whether liability regulations have been promulgated to protect organic and conventional farmers and gardeners from contamination by genetically modified crops, and if so, whether the financial costs of contamination are borne by the producer of genetically modified seeds and, only if negligence is found, by the grower of the genetically modified crops.
  • Whether genetically modified seeds and root-stock shall be required to be labeled so that farmers and gardeners can choose whether or not they want to grow genetically-modified crops.
  • Whether the types and location of the genetically modified crops that are proposed to be grown or tested in Lake County shall be communicated to the Agricultural Commissioner and entered by the Commissioner in a public database available to the public upon request.

7.31.060 Enforcement.

A. It shall be the duty of the Agricultural Commissioner to enforce this chapter, and all designated officers of the Agricultural Commissioner are charged with the enforcement of this chapter and each and every provision thereof.

B. Neither the County nor its officers shall be held liable under this ordinance for actions taken in good faith or for good faith failures to act.

C. Notwithstanding Section B, any person, whether as principal or agent, employee or otherwise, who knowingly violates or causes or permits the violation of any of the provisions of this chapter, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof, shall be punishable by a fine of not more than one thousand dollars, and incarceration of not more than 30 days. Such person shall be deemed to be guilty of a separate offense for each day during any portion of which any violation of this chapter is committed, continued or permitted by such person. The fines provided in this chapter shall be cumulative; incarceration shall be concurrent.

D. Any use of the land, building or premises, established, conducted, operated or maintained contrary to the provisions of this chapter, shall be, and the same is declared to be a violation of this chapter and a public nuisance.

E. The county may summarily abate, or abate pursuant to Chapter 13 of this code, any public nuisance involving genetically modified crops, and the county counsel or the district attorney, upon order of the board of supervisors, may bring civil suit, or other action, to enjoin or abate the nuisance.

F. Any person who creates or maintains a public nuisance in violation of this chapter shall be liable for the costs of abatement that shall include, but not be limited to:

Costs of investigation;
Costs of removing genetically modified crops from the open environment, cleanup and restoration of the environment;
Cost of county employee enforcement time;
Court costs;
and Costs of monitoring compliance.

7.31.070 Severability.
The provisions of this chapter are severable. If any section, paragraph, sentence, phrase or word of this chapter is declared invalid for any reason, that decision shall not affect any other portion of this chapter, which shall remain in full force and effect.

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