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"A CHOICE, NOT AN ECHO"
for California's 67th Assembly District
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February 16, 2002
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- 750 words
Contact: Bill Orton at (562) 598-9630 or Mark Pulido at (562) 712-2093
GMO LABELING A CURE FOR PANICS IN CROP EXPORT MARKETS, SAYS LEGISLATIVE CANDIDATE      (LOS ANGELES) -- As American farmers find it tougher to sell crops overseas, state Assembly candidate William R. "Bill" Orton (D-Seal Beach) told delegates at the California Democratic Party's annual convention meeting in Los Angeles that product labeling of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) would protect farmers from the risk of panic in the commodities markets.
"There is no single word more feared in farm communities than panic," said Bill Orton, addressing members of the CDP's "Rural Caucus."
Citing an eight-month panic in corn markets caused by StarLink -- a genetically modified corn not meant for human consumption but which wound up in tortillas, chips and other food products -- Orton said that he wants to change how people living in rural areas see the issue of GMOs.
"Environmentalists have their take and many other people object to GMOs on religious and ethical grounds," said Orton, "but the most compelling reason we need labeling and safety testing is to guarantee that our farmers are not caught in a panic in the global commodities markets."
To back up his call for state law to require labeling of GMOs, as Orton cited the negative financial impacts that hit farmers, laborers, silo operators, warehousers, banks, shippers, and rural businesses due to the Starlink panic.
The discovery of the GMO-tainted corn in products on the grocery shelves resulted in widespread recalls, including by food-giant Kelloggs, which pulled their Morningstar Farms and Loma Linda brand meat-free corn dogs after samples showed the presence of Starlink.
Of greater concern to American farmers is the threat to corn exports, particularly as Japan and Europe enforce their strict labeling and safety testing laws.
Rural area Democrats nodded as Orton spoke of the GMO scare causing dramatic drops in American and California corn exports and a heightened scrutiny of all US shipments.
At the height of the GMO crisis, Japanese health ministry officials ordered testing of US corn for traces of StarLink, despite USDA-ordered tests of all American corn bound for Japan.
Japanese corn buyers told agricultural officials in Nebraska that they would buy up to two-thirds of their corn from suppliers outside the US because of concerns over StarLink. The Japanese are reportedly looking to China, Brazil, Argentina and South Africa for future corn imports.
The panic hit corn growers nationwide, despite the fact that StarLink was grown on only 315,000 acres by 2,200 farmers in 12 states, according to the National Grain and Feed Association.
While planted on just 0.4 percent of US corn acres, StarLink tainted much greater acreage by mixing with other varieties through handling. Up to a bushel of corn can remain in a combine after harvest. The corn is also spread by cross-pollinating with other varieties after being carried by insects, birds and wind.
According to the USDA, as much as 10% of the US corn crop is contaminated with StarLink. The agency conducted more than 110,000 tests around the country in the months immediately following the discovery of tainted cord. Nationwide, StarLink appeared in nine percent of all samples. In the Midwest, where StarLink was used extensively, up to 16 percent of samples tested positive.
"StarLink proves the need to come up with an answer to the panic issue," says Orton. "Product labeling is a small price to pay to bring stability and predictability to the commodities markets."
Orton, whose Assembly district covers 10 cities in coastal Orange County, said he will ask for a seat on the Assembly Agriculture Committee and intends to introduce a GMO labeling bill should he "pull off a miracle" in his race.
For further information on the GMO issue or to join Orton's campaign, contact Bill Orton by sending a message to
BILL ORTON is the Democratic candidate for State Assembly in the 67th District, which covers Cypress, Huntington Beach, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Rossmoor, Seal Beach, and portions of Anaheim, Garden Grove, Stanton and Westminster.
FPPC ID# 1240194