Nov. 6 2014 12:23 AM

The largest crop in Humboldt County, California, poses a potentially funny "what if."

A small dairy area in far-northern California climbed aboard the anti-GMO bandwagon on Tuesday, when voters in Humboldt County approved the "Genetic Contamination Prevention Ordinance" by a 59 to 41 percent margin.

Yes, another GMO ban. Never mind the just-released conclusion of an epically massive scientific review of GMO studies dating back 29 years and representing 100 billion animals – that GMO feed is safe and nutritionally equivalent to non-GMO feed – Humboldt voters nonetheless passed a countywide ban on growing any genetically modified organism.

Doing so sets up the possibility of a situation that could one day become incredibly fun to watch.

Before the vote, local scientists pointed out that the measure was so poorly worded that if it passed, supporters would inevitably wind up saying, "But that's not what we meant."

For instance, Humboldt State University professor and environmental microbiologist Mark Wilson pointed out in an op-ed article in the Lost Coast Outpost that, "the measure exempts human medicine but not animal medicine, so many common vaccines. . . would be banned."

But the real fun will come if and when the law ever crosses paths with marijuana. Here's why:

In 2013, Humboldt County had 62 dairies and about 13,300 cows, many of them organic. The total value of all legal agriculture in the county in 2012 was $236 million. Milk and milk products accounted for $58 million.

But those numbers pale in comparison to marijuana, whose annual crop value was estimated by HSU economists in 2010 to be at least half a billion dollars. That makes pot the largest single part of Humboldt County's entire economy, and makes it the marijuana capitol of the state.

There are rumors that GMO pot is already out there. One reason is because the University of Central Florida Research Foundation has a patent pending for a "genetic modification technique" for marijuana that increases yield, trichome density (the plant's resinous glands that produce the active ingredient THC), and parasite resistance.

Let's see. . . do you suppose that certain Humboldt County farmers who break the law just to grow their crops will abide by a GMO law if they ever have the ability to grow higher-yielding plants that pack a stronger kick and are more resistant to insects? And will eco-liberal idealism and denial of science prevail over free enterprise opportunity?

No way dude.

Dennis blog footer

The author has served large Western dairy readers for the past 37 years and manages Hoard's WEST, a publication written specifically for Western herds. He is a graduate of Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo, majored in journalism and is known as a Western dairying specialist.

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