GM Rice to Be Grown in California

California is finding itself planted squarely in the center of an international debate over genetically modified crops. Yesterday, a California Rice Commission advisory panel voted 6-5 to allow the cultivation of a genetically modified form of rice designed to produce human proteins — and, eventually, pharmaceuticals — on the condition that Ventria Bioscience plant the crops in Southern California (well outside of the state’s “rice belt”) and follow stringent safety and monitoring requirements to ensure that its rice does not contaminate non-GM crops. Many rice farmers opposed the move, saying that contamination was inevitable, and that even the threat of contamination could hurt them in international markets. Also opposed are enviros, who are pushing California counties to follow the example of Mendocino County, where citizens earlier this month approved an initiative banning GM crops. So far almost a fifth of the state’s counties are considering similar measures. Speaking of GM foods, don’t forget to check out this week’s Grist InterActivist, Rick North, who heads the Campaign for Safe Food for the Oregon chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility.